The Illinois Supreme Court recently ruled that the state’s cap on malpractice damages was unconstitutional, bolstering the argument that judges and juries – not legislators – should be responsible for determining appropriate damages in malpractice cases.
The decision was based on a tragic case of a baby born with severe impairment as a result of mistakes allegedly made by doctors attending her mother. The baby, Abigaile Lebron, was born in 2005, and suffered severe brain injury, cognitive mental impairment, cerebral palsy, and the inability to develop normal neurological function. Doctors allegedly failed to perform tests on her mother which would have indicated the need for an immediate delivery and too much time passed until Abigaile was delivered by Cesarean section.
The court ruled that the cap on damages put in place by the state legislature was a violation of the separation of powers, and intruded on the authority of judges to make sure that jury verdicts are in line with the evidence presented in malpractice cases. This is the third time since 1976 that the Illinois Supreme Court has ruled that malpractice caps are unconstitutional.
The 2005 statute had capped jury verdicts at $500,000 against doctors found liable and $1 million against liable hospitals. West Virginia remains a “capped” State, limiting the recovery of non-economic damages (such as pain and suffering) in medical malpractice cases to $250,000 for most cases and $500,000 for the most serious cases.