Last week the Illinois Supreme Court heard argument on the constitutionality of the 2005 Illinois legislation capping damages in medical malpractice cases. The law caps non-economic[pain and suffering]awards against doctors are $500,000. In addition, the law caps similar damages against hospitals at $1million.
The argument against caps is twofold. First, caps violate the separation of powers doctrine. The law permits legislators to invade the judicial branch and arbitrarily establish limitations on verdicts. The only body that should ever be allowed to set damages due to medical malpractice is a jury – those individuals who actually sat in the courtroom and heard and saw the evidence and the devastation that victims of malpractice suffer. In addition, caps violate the Illinois Constitution prohibition as to “special legislation”. Article IV, Section 13 of the Illinois Constitution says it is impermissible for the State to treat groups of people in different ways. Caps do precisely that – they limit damages that victims of medical malpractic may recover, while not placing a similar ceiling on the damages that victims of different kinds of negligence may recover.
The proponents of caps trot out the same “scare ’em” tactics that were so successful in 2005. Back then, caps supporters insisted that malpractice premiums and huge verdicts were causing doctors to flee Illinois in droves, thereby reducing healthcare opportunities for Illinois citizens. Those arguments have been thoroughly debunked. The number of doctors in Illinois has steadily risen since 1996, according to the American Medical Association[and they should know, shouldn’t they?].
Caps have no place in the legal system. The courtroom remains one of the very few places in America where ordinary citizens can bring behemoth corporations and the insurance companies behind them to justice. If caps become the law of the land in medical case, it won’t be long before other interest groups mount up to limit damages consumers can get in other cases. Hopefully the Supreme Court will shoot this law down.

Categories: ILLINOIS LAW