Statement of Carolyn B. Lamm, President, American Bar Association Re: Illinois Supreme Court Ruling in Lebron v. Gottlieb Memorial Hospital
Ruling in the case of an infant who suffered severe permanent injuries due to medical malpractice during her birth, the Illinois Supreme Court said this morning that caps on non economic damages in medical malpractice cases violate the state’s constitution.
It is the province of the court system to determine damages, said the court, and not the prerogative of the legislature to require judges to reduce damages to a predetermined level. In the heat of the current national debate over health care reform, it is vital to recall that real people suffering real injuries are behind each case in which courts find that medical malpractice has occurred.
The American Bar Association has spent more than 30 years studying legislative efforts at the federal and state levels to impose statutory limits on the ability of victims of negligent medical care to recover for non-economic losses, including pain and suffering. We have consistently concluded that no limit should be adopted to deny a plaintiff in medical malpractice cases full compensation. As we have noted, courts have inherent power to increase or reduce verdicts if they are either so excessive or so inadequate as to be clearly disproportionate to community expectations.
Congress has likewise declined to set arbitrary limits on compensation for medical malpractice victims. We appreciate that other state courts have reached contrary conclusions, based on their own state constitutions. Nonetheless, we commend the reasoning in Illinois that expressed great deference for findings of the state legislature, but still upheld the power of courts to consider each case on its merits, and deliver justice.
The ruling in Lebron, a Minor v. Gottlieb Memorial Hospital is accessible by clicking here.
Media Contact: Nancy Cowger Slonim, 312/988-6132 or firstname.lastname@example.org.