A year after Illinois enacted a law that capped noneconomic damages at $500,000 for doctors and $1 million for hospitals, a family filed a lawsuit alleging their child suffered brain damage during a Caesarean birth at 234-bed Gottlieb Memorial Hospital in the Chicago suburb of Melrose Park. The lawsuit, targeting Gottlieb as well as the doctor and nurse who principally provided the care, became the test case for the constitutionality of the reforms.
The Illinois Supreme Court ruled that the law violates separation of powers under the state constitution because it substitutes damage caps for a jury's deliberative process. The court struck down previous caps on damages in 1997, and the state's provider community worked for years with lawmakers to fashion and pass a more narrowly constructed version that would pass constitutional muster.
“This decision and its dire repercussions for the healthcare delivery system highlight the critical need for the president and Congress to embrace serious and meaningful medical liability reform as part of healthcare reform,” Illinois Hospital Association President Maryjane Wurth said in a written statement.
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