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Birth Injury Victim Seeking Legislative Approval For Full Jury Award

When the nation’s Founding Fathers crafted our current governmental structure when drafting the Constitution, they took great care to create various branches of power, each with specific tasks. Of course, everyone learns in middle school that there are three branches of government: the executive, the legislative, and the judicial. Each is intended to balance against the others, to create an overall system of government that is effective, fair, and efficient.

The judicial branch is intended to be a co-equal body, the place where the laws are interpreted and applied. Our Illinois birth injury lawyers are proud to be a part of that legal tradition, representing local residents who have been hurt as they navigate this justice system. Through the years, however, the judiciary has been attacked, with some calling for legislative efforts to weaken the institutions that dispense justice. There are many different policy proposals, but at the heart of virtually all of them is a desire to remove from the judiciary the ability to make certain decisions when it comes to disputes between community members or interpretations of the actions of a legislature. Many of these efforts are blatantly unconstitutional. Others clearly go against the spirit of split bodies of government that has long been a cherished part of our national history. All of these efforts are unnecessary and harmful.

A story in the Denver Post demonstrates the folly of taking away the dispensation of justice from the body best suited for it: the judiciary. The story shares the tale of a 14-year old boy who wrote a letter to state house officials essentially pleading with them to allow him to actually receive the jury award that he was given nearly five years ago. The teen boy had severe brain damage inflicted as a result of a preventable birth injury. A few years after the injury, as his mother learned more about the circumstances surrounding the situation, a birth injury lawsuit was filed on his behalf. The lawsuit argued that the professionals involved in delivering him made crucial errors which led to his brain damage. The jury awarded the boy and his family roughly $30 million, a total it reached after carefully considering the total cost of the harm to the boy over the course of a lifetime as a result of the medical malpractice. The funds would allow the child to have the care he needed to maximize his quality of life.

Unfortunately, five years later and the child still has not received a dime. The law in the state requires that all jury awards involving a state entity be approved by the state legislature before funds are actually dispersed. The hospital that committed the error in the boy’s case was run by the state, and so it qualifies as a state entity. Therefore the child has been unable to access the resources he desperately needs to receive better care. The state’s senate has approved the measure, but leaders of the house have thus far refused to even call the claims bill for a vote. There is nothing for the victim to do except wait and try to convince those involved to do the right thing.

It remains disappointing that victims such as the teen in this case are forced to wade through the political process just to receive the fair compensation that a jury awarded him. It is yet another testament to the need to keep the judicial system free of the murky influence of political whims.

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