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Law School Case Brief

Lebron v. Gottlieb Mem'l Hosp. - 237 Ill. 2d 217, 341 Ill. Dec. 381, 930 N.E.2d 895 (2010)

Rule:

The limitation on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice actions set forth in 735 ILCS 5/2-1706.5 (2008) violates the separation of powers clause of the Illinois Constitution, Ill. Const. art. II, § 1 and is invalid. Because that law contains an inseverability provision, 2005 Ill. Laws 94-677, § 995, it is invalid and void in its entirety. Because other provisions contained in 2005 Ill. Laws 94-677 are deemed invalid solely on inseverability grounds, the legislature may reenact any provisions it deems appropriate.

Facts:

Plaintiffs A.L., a minor, and her mother, Frances Lebron filed a medical malpractice and declaratory judgment action in Illinois circuit court against defendants Gottlieb Memorial Hospital ("Gottlieb"), Roberto Levi-D'Ancona, M.D., and Florence Martinoz, R.N. Plaintiffs alleged that Lebron was under the care of Dr. Levi-D'Ancona during her pregnancy. On Oct. 31, 2005, Lebron was admitted to Gottlieb, where Dr. Levi-D'Ancona delivered A.L. by Caesarean section. Martinoz assisted in the delivery and provided the principal nursing care from the time of Lebron's admission. Plaintiffs alleged that as the direct and proximate result of certain acts and omissions by defendants, A.L. sustained numerous permanent injuries. They also alleged that their noneconomic damages would greatly exceed 735 ILCS 5/2-1706.5 (2008)'s caps that specifically limited the recovery of such damages in medical malpractice cases. The trial court, ruling on the pleadings, found the statutory caps operated as a "legislative remittitur" that violated the separation-of-powers clause of Ill. Const. art. II, § 1. It found the statute unconstitutional facially and as applied, and that its inseverability provision required invalidation of the entire statute. Defendants filed separate appeals, which were consolidated before the state supreme court. Defendants argued that the statute was a valid exercise of the legislature's police power.

Issue:

Did the statutory caps imposed by the statute in question violate the separation-of-powers clause of Ill. Const. art. II, § 1?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

The state supreme court affirmed in part and reversed in part the circuit court's judgment and remanded the matter for further proceedings. The court found that the statute was facially unconstitutional on separation-of-powers grounds because it was the judiciary’s function to reduce verdicts, and as such, it was unnecessary to determine any "as applied" challenge. Hence, the court rejected defendants' claim that the statute was a valid exercise of the legislature's police powers upon finding the issue was not the wisdom of the law, but whether the law unduly infringed on the judiciary's power.

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