On August 25, 2005, an Illinois law went into effect that placed monetary limits on the possible awards in medical malpractice cases (735 ILCS 5/2.1706.5). In a case against a hospital the caps are set at $1 Million, and against a physician at $500,000.
Since its inception this law has caused much debate, the most recent of which involves a November decision by the Cook County Circuit Court ruling this law to be unconstitutional. Judge Joan Diane Larsen determined that caps on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases violates the Illinois Constitution by violating the Separation of Powers Clause. This clause states that three branches of government (legislative, executive, and judicial) are separate and that no branch shall exercise powers properly belonging to another (Illinois Constitution).
One of the main arguments against caps on Illinois medical malpractice damages is that it eliminates a jury’s ability to evaluate evidence on a case-by-case basis and limits its power to award damages. Both the Illinois and U.S. Constitution protect an individual’s right to have their case tried by a jury of their peers, but once we start limiting a jury’s freedom to make decisions then we are in essence stripping it of its power.
From here the issue will be heard by the Illinois Supreme Court, who could rule on it as early as this summer.
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Illinois Medical Malpractice Case on Constitutionality of Damage Caps for Doctors and Hospitals Argued before Illinois Supreme Court