Saturday, February 6, 2010
This past week, the Illinois Supreme Court struck down its state's medical tort reform act's malpractice cap (from 2005) on the basis that it violated the equal protection clause of the Constitution. Unlike Virginia's medical malpractice cap, the Illinois statute did not limit economic damages, it only capped damages for pain and suffering. In Virginia, the unlucky patient who is a victim of medical malpractice and who has medical bills that exceed the cap (currently $2,000,000), is out of luck for a second time when he visits a lawyer seeking redress for his injuries. He or she will be informed that the cap has been determined to be constitutional and so damages will be limited, even if they choose to move to Illinois. Will this decision of the Illinois Supreme Court cause doctors to flee the land of Lincoln and seek safe haven in Virginia? Probably not. In reality, an excessive jury award is usually limited or set aside by the trial judge or an appellate court. What's more, caps have been shown not to affect malpractice premiums for doctors. Insurance companies are the main beneficiaries of caps, not doctors and certainly not patients. We need tort reform that protects and helps both doctors and patients.