February 4, 2010 / 4:56 PM / 10 years ago

Illinois court strikes down malpractice cap law

CHICAGO, Feb 4 (Reuters) - The Illinois Supreme Court on Thursday declared unconstitutional a 2005 state law that capped damage awards for a plaintiff’s pain and suffering at $500,000 against doctors and $1 million against hospitals.

It was the second time in 13 years that the state’s highest court has struck down a state law capping damage awards.

The American Medical Association, the nation’s leading doctors’ group, criticized the decision.

“Today’s court decision threatens to undo all that Illinois patients and physicians have gained under the cap, including greater access to health care, lower medical liability rates and increased competition among medical liability insurers,” AMA President Dr. James Rohack said in a statement.

More than half the 50 states have enacted caps limiting noneconomic damages, commonly known as damages for pain and suffering, with ceilings ranging from $250,000 to $700,000, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

States that have enacted caps have generally seen malpractice insurance premiums stabilize or drop, the foundation said in a report this month. Some states have seen a drop in lawsuits and a rise in the number of practicing doctors, while others have not, the report said. (Reporting by Andrew Stern, editing by Gerald E. McCormick)

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