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Changes Predicted After Birth Injury “Claims Bill” Passes Legislature

Over the past few months our Illinois birth injury lawyers have followed the case out of Florida of a boy’s struggle to receive the damages he was awarded in a birth injury lawsuit. The child has cerebral palsy. Several years ago his mother filed a lawsuit against the hospital that provided care during her labor. She argued that the care provided was below reasonable standards and, as a result, her son suffered the permanent birth injuries. The jury in the case agreed with the mother, and the family was awarded $30 million for the extended care that the boy will need throughout his life as a result of the injuries that he suffered.

However, the family did not immediately receive the funds which a jury deemed them entitled. That is because the hospital that committed the negligence was a publically run facility. The laws of sovereign immunity in the state generally shield public institutions from liability under most circumstances. Therefore, in this case, recovering any damages required a special law to be passed specifically authorizing payment of the damage amount. As one might expect, getting a law passed requiring a public entity to pay for the consequences of its damages was no easy feat. It took several years of work. Fortunately, the claims bill was passed this year for a compromise amount of $15 million.

However, as a new story reported in the News-Press this weekend explains, hospital officials have already been discussing whether to change from an institution with a “public” status to a private one. Leaders of the institutional have expressed worry that this one claims bill passage suggests that their sovereign immunity status might be less potent, making the benefit of being classified as a public institution less apparent. As always happens when big interests lose arguments seeking to shield themselves from liability for the harm they cause, facility lobbyists have claimed that passage of the claims bill may lead to a flood of similar lawsuits. This is akin to claims of “doom and gloom” that are often made when tort reform laws are struck down.

Our Chicago birth injury lawyers realize that it is important to keep all of this into perspective. In this case, the hospital will only be required to pay for the consequences of its actions that have resulted in a boy (now 14-years old) to be permanently disabled for the rest of his life. Even then, it took the family years of legal fighting just to get a compromise bill passed. There was nothing easy about the process that would lead to a sudden surge in birth injury lawsuits.

Also, what must not be forgotten is who pays for the consequences of the birth injury if not the hospital. If the family is not allowed to receive a judgment awarded by the jury, then it is the taxpayers who are ultimately responsible for providing aid to help deal with the error anyway. Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, disability, and other support payments would fall to ordinary taxpayers in the absence of accountability via the justice system. At the end of the day, for all of the dire predictions when accountability is had, fairness usually reigns when a negligent facility or individual is required to pay for the consequences of their actions.

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