CHICAGO – A Cook County judge has stricken a law that protected doctors and hospitals from large medical malpractice payouts. The ruling could reopen the state’s bitter fight between patients’ rights and big-money lawsuits.
Cook County Circuit Judge Diane Larson tossed the caps in a medical malpractice suit involving the botched delivery of an infant. Judge Larson ruled that the caps for pain and suffering awards, set at $500,000 for doctors and $1 million for hospitals, were unconstitutional because they allowed the Legislature to control a judge’s ability to award or reduce damages.
The law was passed in 2005 in response to dramatic increases in doctors’ insurance rates. Doctors blamed lawyers, claiming medical malpractice lawsuits were driving up the rates. Lawyers attributed it to insurance companies chasing profits. The law contained several reforms, including rules aimed at opening the medical malpractice industry to competition and allowing the state to deny excessive insurance rates.