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Illinois Tort Reform and Medical Malpractice

Casey Woodruff

undefinedIf you file a medical malpractice claim, will the damages for which you’re eligible be capped at a certain amount? In 2010, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that “limits on damages awarded to victims of medical negligence are unconstitutional,” according to a recent article in the Chicago Tribune. That case struck down legislation from 2005, which placed limits on noneconomic damages—such as those for pain and suffering—that could be awarded in medical malpractice lawsuits. However, a recent hearing in the Illinois House of Representatives suggested that tort reform, with a particular eye on medical negligence claims, remains a significant concern for many lawmakers in our state.

Is Illinois On Its Way to a Medical Negligence Cap?

Earlier this month, Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan “summoned the entire Illinois House for a daylong hearing that put the spotlight on business-friendly measures sought by Republican Governor Bruce Rauner,” the Chicago Tribune reported. Rauner, along with other Illinois lawmakers, is pushing for tort reform. In an effort to show the harms that would arise if Illinois law placed a cap on medical malpractice damages, Madigan asked a number of victims to testify about their experience.

For example, one patient, Molly Akers, testified about having been “incorrectly diagnosed with breast cancer,” which led her to undergo “an unnecessary mastectomy.” The article reported that Akers “won a $6 million judgment in her malpractice lawsuit.” A patient, Linda Reynolds, from Missouri also testified about the harms of malpractice caps. In her state, she wasn’t permitted to collect the full $4.5 million judgment she won due to the cap on noneconomic damages. In her case, she “noticed a lump in her breast in 2003 but wasn’t taken seriously by her doctor.” She testified to the Illinois House that “by the time she was diagnosed with cancer, it was too late.”

“Friendly” Lawsuit Climate in Illinois

Members of the business community weren’t invited to testify at this recent hearing. The absence left certain Illinoisans frustrated. For instance, Todd Maisch, the president of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, emphasized that “there are two sides to civil justice reform,” and that only one side was presented on the House floor. Maisch hopes that he and other members of the business community will have “a chance to go ahead and make our case to the House and the full legislature in support of the governor’s agenda.”

According to Maisch and other Chicago-area business owners, our state’s “friendly” lawsuit climate deters investors from getting involved in ventures in Illinois. The liability costs are just too high, many argue. John Pastuovic, a spokesperson for the Illinois Civil Justice League, argued that “business cannot and will not invest in Illinois until these established, deep-rooted, and documented problems are addressed once and for all.”

Does Illinois need to reinstitute a cap on certain medical negligence damages? Or should patients have the right to collect the full amount of damages—no matter how high—awarded by a jury? We’ll need to wait and see whether changes arise in the law. But as of now, the 2010 Illinois Supreme Court ruling allows patients to collect all damages when they’re injured as a result of medical malpractice.

Contact a Chicago Medical Malpractice Attorney

If you or someone you love has been injured as a result of medical negligence, you deserve to be compensated. Contact an experienced Chicago medical malpractice lawyer at Woodruff Johnson & Evans to learn more about how we can help with your claim.

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