In a boon to plaintiff lawyers, the Illinois Supreme Court strikes down medical malpractice law.
In 2005, a statute took effect in Illinois that placed limits on awards for noneconomic damages, such as pain and suffering, in medical malpractice cases. The total limit was $1 million for hospitals and their personnel and $500,000 for doctors.
Shortly after the effective date of this enactment, a baby who was born by Caesarean section was found to have numerous permanent injuries. Suit was filed against Gottlieb Memorial Hospital in Melrose Park, the doctor, and an assisting nurse.
The circuit court granted a declaratory judgment that the damage limitation was invalid on constitutional grounds.
The supreme court affirmed the finding that, under the Illinois Constitution, the statute is facially invalid on separation of powers grounds.
The supreme court said that the damage limitation violates the constitutional principle of separation of powers by interfering with the authority of the judicial branch to reduce verdicts. What the statute allows for amounts to a “legislative remittitur.” The supreme court agreed with the circuit court that, because the challenged provision is not severable, the entire statute is invalid. However, the legislature is free to reenact the other provisions.
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