Personal injury and medical malpractice awards often include amounts for non-economic damages like emotional distress and pain and suffering. Unfortunately, some states limit – or are seeking to limit – the amount of damages that a victim of medical malpractice can collect for non-economic damages.
While many states, including Illinois, have found damage caps to be unconstitutional, the Maryland Court of Appeals recently held that its damage cap law was constitutional. Under Maryland law, non-economic damages in a personal injury or wrongful death action with two or more claimants cannot exceed 150% of the cap on individual awards. The Maryland Court of Appeals in Dixon v. Ford Motor Company recently held that the 150% cap did not violate the equal protection, due process, and right to jury trial provisions of the Maryland Constitution.
The lawsuit involved asbestos-related liability claims made by Joan Dixon, who had contracted mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure and her husband, Bernard. After Joan’s death, the lawsuit was continued with the following multiple claims and claimants: Bernard as personal representative of Joan’s estate, Bernard in a wrongful death lawsuit, and each of the couple’s four children in a wrongful death lawsuit. The jury awarded non-economic damages to the plaintiffs totaling $15 million – $5 million to Bernard on behalf of his wife’s estate, $4 million to Bernard in the wrongful death claim, and $1.5 million to each of the couple’s children in their wrongful death claim – but the trial court subsequently adjusted the wrongful death awards to $426,000 to Bernard and $159,750 to each of the children.
On appeal, the Maryland high court held the non-economic damage caps to be constitutional.
Damage caps of any kind – including Maryland’s 150% limitation – are problematic for a number of reasons. Not only do damage caps hurt patients and the general public by failing to hold doctors, hospitals and other medical professionals financially responsible for the injuries or deaths that they have caused, but evidence also shows that damage caps are ineffective at reducing health care spending.
Fortunately, Illinois does not currently have damage caps on medical malpractice or personal injury verdicts. Any legislative attempts to invoke damages caps have been ruled unconstitutional by the Illinois Supreme Court as recently as February 2011.
At Ankin Law Offices, LLC our Chicago medical malpractice attorneys are committed to protecting the rights of victims of medical malpractice and their families. If you or a loved one has been the victim of medical malpractice, do not hesitate to contact our office at (312) 600-0000 to schedule a free consultation. We seek full and fair financial recovery and are opposed to any statutory limitations on medical malpractice and personal injury awards.