Medical Malpractice Caps in Illinois and Maryland

Later this month, the Illinois cap on non-economic damages ($500,000 for a doctor and $1 million for a hospital) in medical malpractice cases will receive state constitutional review by a judge in infamous Cook County, Illinois.

Just like in Maryland, the political climate has changed since the medical malpractice “reform” in 2005. Medical malpractice payouts in 2006 fell, even though the new law impacted only a small handful of cases that resolved in 2006. Medical malpractice insurance premiums have fallen. In Maryland, Med Mutual reportedly cut premiums by 8% in 2007. Medical malpractice lawyers told the legislatures that the insurance companies had essentially cooked the books, creating a crisis that was mostly created by low-interest rates. History is bearing out this warning as premiums are falling and insurance companies’ profits are skyrocketing. I don’t think anyone should begrudge the insurance companies’ profits (or their CEOs’ large salaries for that matter as many plaintiffs’ lawyers wrongfully do, in my opinion). But those facts do not square up with their “sky is falling” warnings of doom.

The case on review in Cook County involves a baby with severe brain damage. Proponents of a cap argue that $500,000 (or $680,000 in Maryland) is an appropriate cap on non-economic damages for a child to go through life with a brain injury. Plaintiffs’ medical malpractice lawyers and their clients, to put it mildly, strongly disagree.