As the leading journalistic and editorial voice of the people of Illinois, the Chicago Tribune has tremendous influence over the attitudes, laws, and policies of our state. As such, the Chicago medical malpractice attorneys of Passen & Powell have long been concerned with the Tribune’s editorial position on issues of medical malpractice and tort reform. Many of the paper’s positions in the past have been ill-advised. We hope, however, that a change is underway.
As an example, the paper and its editorial board have many times come out in favor of so-called “tort reform”: in particular, the Tribune has over the years often endorsed the concept of limitations on damages, particularly in medical malpractice cases. Likewise, the paper has repeatedly printed op-ed pieces penned by advocates of “tort reform” which are neither well-reasoned nor informative – the paper has simply allowed its editorial pages to serve as a vehicle for arguments in favor of these “reform” proposals.
Those who follow the writings of our top medical malpractice lawyers are well aware of our position on issues of “tort reform” and damages caps. These arbitrary limits on the amount of money which a victim of medical malpractice may recover are senseless and unjust.
First, they do nothing to ease the supposed spiraling costs of medical malpractice insurance, practicing medicine, and thus the cost of medical care. In the time in which a damages cap was in place in Illinois, there was no noticeable decrease in either medical malpractice premiums or health insurance, nor in the rates charged by physicians to their Illinois patients.
Second, damages caps work a fundamental injustice on the victims of medical malpractice. The damages awarded by juries in medical malpractice cases represent the amount of actual harm to that patient, or to the relatives left behind. This can include the cost of medical bills, rehabilitative care and therapy, lifestyle adjustments (such as wheelchairs, or disabled-accessible vehicles and alterations to the victim’s home), a lifetime of care, lost wages, and other damages. To set an arbitrary limit on the damages which a victim may recover is to tell the victims of the most catastrophic medical injuries that, because their injury was so severe, they cannot recover all that they have lost. Such a result is simply cruel.
That is why our medical malpractice attorneys were so relieved when the Illinois Supreme Court struck down the arbitrary cap on damages that had been imposed at the behest of proponents of “tort reform.” But we were equally relieved this fall when the Chicago Tribune endorsed Illinois Supreme Court Justice Thomas Kilbride for reelection. Justice Kilbride, whose vote to strike down the Illinois cap on damages was key, had been targeted by the insurance lobby and other “tort reformers” in the hopes that eliminating him from the Court would allow future unconstitutional tort reforms to stand.
We are further encouraged by the Tribune’s recent series on doctors who sexually abuse their patients. This topic has been of concern to our medical malpractice lawyers for some time. For example, we recently discussed the removal of sexual abuse convictions from publicly-available physician records in the state of Illinois. We are encouraged that the Tribune has begun to explore our state government’s failures with regard to this most abusive class of physicians. We hope that this is the beginning of an honest look by this influential paper at the abusive practices occurring in our state, which will in turn begin an open and productive conversation about these issues, statewide.
For a free consultation with an experienced Chicago medical malpractice lawyer at Passen & Powell, call us at (312) 527-4500.