Consumer Groups, Trial Lawyers and Others to Continue Fight for Meaningful Insurance Reform
(Springfield, IL) – The state’s highest court has, for a third time, ruled that caps on medical malpractice damages are unconstitutional and unfair to the very patients who rely on our civil justice system when they have been the victims of medical errors that forever harm their lives or take away a loved one before their time.
The majority opinion held “[W]e necessarily consider…the legislature’s goal in enacting the statue-responding to a health-care crisis. Our separation of powers analysis, however, does not stop there. The crux of our analysis is whether the statue unduly infringes upon the inherent power of the judiciary. Here, the legislature’s attempt to limit…damages in medical malpractice actions runs afoul of the separation of powers clause.”
The case before the Illinois Supreme Court was about a little girl, Abigaile LeBron. Her life has been forever changed by the severe brain damage she suffered as a result of medical errors. Abigaile will have to be fed through a tube for the rest of her life. She will never develop cognitively or physically as her peers do. She will never live independently.
For years the insurance industry has tried to convince the public that patients who are victims of medical errors are responsible for the increased health care costs, even though Illinois’ largest malpractice insurer has reported that payouts have remained flat for the past 13 years. Rather than discussing what can be done to spur competition in the insurance industry and hold costs steady, the insurance companies wanted to convince the public that it was the victims – the families of people like Abigaile LeBron, who were to blame for rising costs and limited access to quality care. But in its ruling today, the Illinois Supreme Court has decided that the health care crisis can not be solved by further hurting the patients who are victims of medical errors.
“Our health care system is reeling and rather than trying to fix it, insurance companies across the country have tried to divert attention from the real reforms that would improve access and care,” said Peter J. Flowers, president of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association. “With this decision, we can now focus on the real issue – providing meaningful insurance reform that will keep costs down for doctors and patients alike, and ensure access to quality care for every resident in the state.”
Health care in Illinois will only improve when insurance companies are held accountable. The long-suppressed insurance reforms that were contained in this legislation have resulted in a forced reduction of malpractice premiums. The law forced malpractice insurance companies to provide greater transparency on rate-setting and payouts that has in turn spurred competition, motivated more companies to enter the marketplace, and lowered premiums for doctors.
“Today’s Illinois Supreme Court ruling making it illegal to impose caps on financial damages to victims of medical malpractice is a victory for working families whose lives and livelihoods are destroyed by medical negligence,” said Michael T. Carrigan, president of the Illinois AFL-CIO. “All citizens of this state should have the right to a trial by their peers to decide appropriate compensation. Hopefully today’s decision will finally put an end to the efforts of greedy insurance corporations to deny victims their due process.”