Illinois Supreme Court Turns Back Tort Reform
February 5, 2010
In a disappointing and tortured decision, the Illinois Supreme Court threw out limits on noneconomic damages in medical liability cases yesterday, overturning bipartisan legislation passed in 2005 that enjoyed broad public support. Ed Murnane, President of the Illinois Civil Justice League, blasted the court for “siding once again with the trial lawyers” over patients and doctors.
According to American Medical Association President James Rohack (who is quoted in today’s Chicago Tribune), when the Illinois Supreme Court overruled the state’s previous damage cap in 1997:
“Severe problems with patient access to care emerged as the unrestrained excesses of the state’s legal system forced Illinois physicians to limit services, retire early, or move to other states where liability premiums are more stable. Without a cap on noneconomic damages from 1997 to 2005, Chicago physicians saw their liability premiums increase an average of 10 to 12 percent each year. When the cap was reinstated in 2005, premiums for Chicago physicians stabilized and even began to shrink.”
This is the third time the Illinois high court has struck down medical liability limits, demonstrating that it “simply will not be bound by the duly enacted acts of the legislature when certain issues important to its lawyer constituency are at stake,” writes Walter Olson in a post at PointofLaw.com that picks apart the court’s legal analysis.
The Illinois court’s “lawless” decision (Olson) demonstrates beyond any doubt that the best tort reform is getting the right judges on the bench.