In your December 20 editorial "Court must protect malpractice limits" you urge the Illinois Supreme Court to maintain limits on damages on medical malpractice cases, stating limits are necessary to avoid higher rates for doctors. This is simply not the case.
Limits on noneconomic damages are a one-size-fits-all approach that are unfair to victims. The case before the Illinois Supreme Court is about Abigaile LeBron, a child who suffers brain damage as the result of medical negligence. This case - like all cases in which someone has been the victim of medical negligence - is a tragedy. To the best of its ability, our legal system must provide justice for this innocent person and hold the responsible parties accountable.
While your editorial incorrectly states that caps have brought more doctors to the area and reduced premiums, the fact is that the positive climate for doctors has resulted from strong, long suppressed insurance reforms, which were included in the legislation. That law has forced malpractice insurance companies to provide greater transparency on rate-setting and payouts that has, in turn, spurred competition, motivated more companies to enter the marketplace, and lowered premiums for doctors. Important to the discussion is the additional fact that Illinois' largest malpractice insurer has reported that payouts have remained flat for the past 13 years. That same insurance carrier admitted in legislative hearings in 2005 that capping awards would not guarantee lower premiums for doctors.
The Illinois Constitution was put in place to ensure individual rights and freedoms. While corporations and profit-hungry executives often stack the decks against individuals in the marketplace and the halls of government, the courtroom can still provide all parties with an even playing field. The question before the Illinois Supreme Court now is whether the Illinois Constitution allows Abigaile's rights to be limited in this fashion to the benefit of insurance company profits.
Philip Harnett Corboy Jr.
Illinois Trial Lawyers Association