Woman’s Noneconomic Damages Award Reduced from $9 Million to $350,000 Pursuant to State Law

A woman was undergoing a cardiac catheterization procedure when her artery was dissected, and the woman died as a result. Her family then sued the treating physician for wrongful death. The case went to trial, and the jury found in favor of the family in the amount of almost $2 million for economic damages and $9 million for noneconomic damages. However, a Missouri state law limited the amount of noneconomic damages, reducing the noneconomic damages award to $350,000. The state’s supreme court held that the state law was permissible and left the reduction in place.

ScalpelThe law in question stated that in medical malpractice claims arising from a failure to render health care services, plaintiffs cannot recover more than $350,000 for noneconomic damages. The plaintiffs argued that the law violated the state constitution because it violated the right to trial by jury. However, the court rejected this argument, finding that the statute simply placed a limit on the amount of noneconomic damages that could be awarded. Thus, the court found the law constitutional, and the award limit remained in place.

Noneconomic Damages Limits in Illinois

Illinois does not have a limit on noneconomic damages. In 2006, the Illinois legislature placed caps on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases. However, the Illinois Supreme Court subsequently found that those caps were unconstitutional. Accordingly, any medical malpractice claim filed after the decision is not subject to a limit on damages, and the award amount is unlimited. The Illinois Supreme Court reasoned that judges and juries should be able to decide how much a plaintiff is owed based on the individual case. Illinois plaintiffs can receive any amount of damages that a judge or jury believes should be awarded, without being limited by an artificial damages cap.

Damages in Illinois

While a plaintiff must prove all the elements of liability at trial, it is important to remember that he or she must also prove damages. As the Illinois Supreme Court explained, the primary purpose of an award of damages in a civil case is to compensate the plaintiff, rather than to punish the defendant. While a plaintiff does not need to prove the exact amount of damages, they must be proved with a “reasonable degree of certainty” or a “fair degree of probability.” Also of note, pain and suffering damages do not need to be related to the amount of medical expenses incurred or to lost wages. Even when other evidence does not exist, a plaintiff’s own testimony may be sufficient to prove pain and suffering.

The main elements to prove damages for personal injury claims in Illinois are:

  • The nature of the injuries and expected duration of the injuries,
  • The aggravation of pre-existing conditions,
  • Disfigurement,
  • Disability,
  • Pain and suffering,
  • Emotional distress,
  • Medical care expenses,
  • The value of time or lost wages,
  • Care taking expenses, and
  • The plaintiff’s age and life expectancy.

Have You Been the Victim of Medical Malpractice?

If you or a loved one has recently been the victim of what you believe to have been medical malpractice by a health care professional, you may be entitled to monetary compensation based on all that you have been put through. These cases, however, can be exceptionally complex and may require several medical or scientific experts to establish the defendant’s liability. To learn more, contact Moll Law Group to discuss your case. Call us at 312-462-1700 or fill out our consultation form to set up a free initial consultation.

See More Posts:

Spring 2016 Moll Law Group College Scholarship Winner is . . ., Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog, April 18, 2016.

Evidence of Lack of Insurance Determined Irrelevant in Car Accident Claim, Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog, April 30, 2016.

Woman Injured by Hot Air Balloon While Standing in Line Permitted to Sue Despite Signed Waiver, Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog, May 11, 2016.