The Naples News reported yesterday on the latest news regarding the “claims bill” issue which affects a young boy who suffered permanent injuries at birth as a result of medical malpractice. A jury in a subsequent birth injury lawsuit awarded the boy $30 million for the care he will need for the rest of his life. However, because the negligent hospital was a public one, there was a cap of $200,000 on an award. The child’s only recourse was to try to get a piece of legislation passed by the state House, state Senate, and signed by the Governor.
As it stands right now a bill which would provide half of the jury award ($15 million) was passed handily in the state House. It now moves on to the Senate. It is unclear what the prospects for the bill are in that Chamber. However, it is clear that the boy and his family have faced an uphill battle. The negligent hospital hired several big-time lobbying firms to fight the matter. Beyond that, it is unclear what the Governor’s position on the bill is, as his veto could throw the bill back to the Assembly. Yet, the vote margin in the House was large enough to override a veto. Usually Governors are prone not to veto a bill that they know will be overridden anyway. It will be interesting to see how this matter plays out, as observers note it is the largest claims bill in the state’s history.
Each Illinois birth injury attorney at our firm appreciates that this case highlights the unique issues that can affect lawsuits against public entities. In general, public entities are capable of crafting different rules which apply to how they can be held accountable for their negligent conduct. Sovereign immunity rules allow these entities to limit their liability entirely. In many situations, as in this case illustrates, the state will have caps on the amount that can be recovered by victims following negligence by a public hospital or official. The only alternative for the victim in those cases is to get a specific piece of legislation passed through the state political process and enacted into law.
Beyond limits on damages and immunity entirely, other legal rules may be changed in special ways for public bodies. Most notably, there are often different statute of limitations times and notice requirements when dealing with public entities. If those special rules are not respected, then a plaintiff may lose their right to seek redress and accountability entirely. Our Illinois medical malpractice lawyers often explain that this makes it very important for those who believe they (or a loved one) may have fallen victim to medical malpractice to seek out the advice of proper legal counsel as soon as feasible. Often it is not entirely clear if a public body is involved in a suit until the attorney is given all the information and conducts an investigation. Therefore, to ensure that all legal options will remain on the table, there is no substitute for timely, experienced help from a legal professional.
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