Three years ago, Illinois became the 36th state to have limits on medical damage awards. This has been a very good thing for the people of Illinois, who were losing physicians in droves, because they could save $100,000 a year in malpractice insurance simply by moving to one of the surrounding states that had caps on damages. The limits were reasonable: $500k against physicians, $1 million against hospitals — on awards for pain and suffering. The patients were still protected, but excessive awards became a thing of the past. Specialists who had been avoiding risky procedures were once again safe to practice medicine that had the patient’s best interest at heart.
Now a Whistleblower trial lawyer, hoping to make money via the Qui Tam, is challenging that legislation in the Illinois Supreme Court. The courts have struck down laws with similar intent before, both in 1976 and in 1997. This time, lawmakers hoped to avoid this by limiting the law to excessive damage judgements, but the Whistleblowers are still claiming that the law oversteps the mandate of the legislative branch by keeping judges from policing against excessive awards. The argument seems weak, but it leaves Illinois out on the ledge again, while we wait to hear the Supreme Court’s decision.
This law is a good thing for everyone; the medical profession, the facilities, the doctors, but mostly the patients, who will lose their best care providers if the Illinois State Supreme Court overturns this sensible legislation. Let us hope that the examples set by the other states’ legislatures will be enough to convince the courts to leave well enough alone, to hold the legislators and the best interest of the public good above that of a greedy law firm.