Illinois Declares Med Mal Cap Unconstitutional

The Illinois Supreme Court struck down a State law that set caps on noneconomic (pain and suffering and mental anguish) damages.  That law placed a cap of $1,000,000 on noneconomic damage awards against hospitals and $500,000 against physicians.  The court held that the law violated the separation of powers article of the Illinois Constitution in that it was a legislative attempt to infringe upon the inherent powers of the judiciary branch to decide these cases on a case-by-case basis.

The court reasoned that under Section 2-1706.5 of the Act, the court is required to override the jury's deliberative process and reduce any noneconomic damages in excess of the statutory cap, irrespective of the particular facts and circumstances, and without the plaintiff's consent. Thus, it violated the separation of powers clause because it unduly encroached upon the fundamentally judicial perogative of determining whether a jury's assessment of damages is excessive within the meaning of the law.