Tort reform continues to be hot button issue, with many states – such as Texas, Georgia and Mississippi – passing or considering legislation that limits the amount of money a plaintiff can collect in medical malpractice lawsuits.
One state that is currently considering damage cap legislation is Missouri. The Missouri House voted to reinstate the state’s cap on noneconomic damages last month, but the bill is currently stalled in the Missouri Senate and did not reach a vote before the Senate adjourned on May 17, 2013.
Previous Missouri law had limited noneconomic damages in medical malpractice lawsuits to $350,000, but the Missouri Supreme Court ruled that law to be a violation of the constitutional right to a trial by jury. Because Missouri relied on a common-law right to seek damages for medical malpractice claims when its constitution was enacted in 1820, the Missouri Supreme Court concluded that any cap on damages was a restriction of the jury’s fact-finding role and, thereby, a violation of the right to a jury trial.
The new law sought to avoid any constitutional hurdles by eliminating a common-law right to file a lawsuit over health care services and, instead, putting in place a new statutory right to sue. The previous noneconomic damages cap of $350,000 would remain in place.
At issue in most tort reform legislation is the amount of money a plaintiff can be awarded for pain and suffering. While some portions of a personal injury damage award – such as medical expenses and lost wages – may be easily calculable, other expenses – like pain and suffering – are more difficult to calculate. The calculation of pain and suffering, and any permanent disabilities and scarring, is typically left to a judge or jury’s discretion on what is fair and just.
Not only are damage caps a potential constitutional violation, but they undoubtedly 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. Moreover, evidence shows that tort reform is ineffective at reducing health care spending.
Does Illinois Have Damage Caps?
Illinois currently does not 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.