Health Inc.

Illinois Court Nullifies Medical Malpractice Caps

The top court in President Obama's home state just struck down a law that capped malpractice awards against doctors and hospitals.

A stethoscope, gavel and scale of justice. i
A stethoscope, gavel and scale of justice.

The decision, though specific to Illinois, could deal a blow to efforts to change malpractice laws elsewhere.

Recall, that last fall the administration promised to fund state experiments in dealing with medical malpractice to the tune of $25 million. Lately, the notion that changes in how malpractice is handled could save a lot of money even got a thumbs-up from the Congressional Budget Office.

The problem with the Illinois law, passed in 2005, is that its caps of $500,000 on noneconomic damages in cases against doctors and $1 million against hospitals interfere with a judge's ability to reduce the awards. The Illinois Legislature, the court decided, had violated the separation of powers.

The Chicago Tribune reports on the closely watched case here, and drew our attention to a passage in the decision that sounded just like dear old Mom.

Who cares if those flashy folks in California and some other states have similar laws on the books? "That 'everybody is doing it," is hardly a litmus test for the constitutionality of the statute," the majority opinion reads.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.