Proponents of civil justice are celebrating and insurance companies are fuming in the wake of yesterday’s decision by the Illinois Supreme Court. Illinois’ highest court ruled capping damages for victims of medical malpractice violated the State Constitution’s separation of powers clause by imposing decisions reserved for judges and juries. That is a huge win for the citizens of Illinois.
I’ve defended a huge number of doctors and hospitals in medical malpractice lawsuits, I have doctors in my family, and I have a really high opinion of the medical profession. As a Georgia medical malpractice lawyer, I recognize healthcare is a problem in our country. However, caps on medical malpractice damages are not the answer. Unless the question is how do we further victimize those that have been catastrophically injured by medical negligence.
For those that don’t know, medical malpractice caps mean this: No matter what a doctor or hospital does to you. No matter how egregious the malpractice. No matter if the consequence is death, dismemberment, or disfigurement. You CANNOT recover what the judge and jury think your case is worth if it exceeds the arbitrary cap. In Georgia the cap is $350,000. If you are a housewife, retired, or unemployed and killed by a doctor’s negligence the judge and jury cannot decide what your life is worth, $350,000 is the max. If a checked-out doctor cuts a baby’s penis off during circumcision, refuses to acknowledge her mistake, and the baby is forced to live a life disfigured, the jury’s verdict will be reduced to the arbitrary cap. Caps on damages were created by insurance companies to erode the civil justice system of trial by jury. For all its flaws, the American system of justice is still the best system in the world.
Thankfully, Illinois was protected from these caps by the State’s Constitution and their high court’s willingness to enforce it. The Supreme Court of Georgia is expected to rule soon on our medical malpractice caps. I, like many others, hope and pray Georgia will soon also be free from the injustice of caps.