The Lebron Decision: Illinois Court Says No Again To Caps In Medical Malpractice Lawsuits

  By Brian J. Hickey and Jennifer A. Bollow

In this Emerging Issues commentary, Brian J. Hickey and Jennifer A. Bollow, both partners with Cassiday Schade LLP, examine a recent decision by the Illinois Supreme Court. In Lebron v. Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, the court struck down the third attempt by Illinois lawmakers to impose caps on noneconomic damages. Since the law only applied to medical malpractice actions, the court held that it violated the separation of powers clause of the Illinois Constitution. They write:
 
"Despite multiple efforts by the Illinois Legislature to join those other states which have passed caps on non-economic damages, Illinois law again has failed to pass constitutional muster with the Illinois Supreme Court. In Best, the court struck down the broad caps based primarily on the basis that the law constituted 'special legislation.' The Best Court held that there was not a reasonable basis to limit personal injury verdicts due to excessive verdicts as the burden would be shouldered by only one group, injured plaintiffs.
 
“Recently, the Lebron Court struck down as unconstitutional a much narrower non-economic damages cap law pertaining only to medical malpractice. Given the lengthy reasonable basis in the legislative history, the Lebron Court avoided finding the new legislation unconstitutional on the same basis as Best. Instead, the Lebron holding was based on a separation of powers argument.
 
“Given these two attempts by the Illinois Legislature to impose caps in the past 15 years without success, the question is raised as to whether there can ever be caps on non-economic damages in Illinois. At the federal level, the Obama administration is strongly pushing for health care reform. The Republican members of Congress, almost unanimously, have opposed this reform and repeatedly indicate that tort reform must be included to provide any meaningful reform of America's health care system."
 
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