Monday, May 21, 2007

Illinois lawmakers back damage awards for grief


Illinois lawmakers on Thursday passed a measure that lets jurors consider the grief and sorrow of survivors when deciding payouts in wrongful death lawsuits — a move that promises to reopen political wounds from the state's medical malpractice battle of two years ago.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich, a Democrat, hasn't said whether he will sign the bill, which passed the Senate Thursday 31-23.

Illinois now allows jurors to consider several factors when deciding how much to award plaintiffs who prevail in wrongful death suits. Factors include actual damages such as loss of income, as well as "noneconomic" damages such as the loss of love, comfort and other intangibles by the survivor- plaintiffs.

The new legislation would add heartache to that list of intangibles, allowing jurors to consider "damages for grief, sorrow, and mental suffering, to the surviving spouse and next of kin of such deceased person."

That language, the result of a lobbying effort by Illinois trial lawyers, reopens a fractious debate over what doctors and hospitals should have to pay when their patients are maimed or killed. In 2005, Illinois capped the amount that plaintiffs could collect for noneconomic damages in malpractice cases, to $500,000 per doctor and $1 million per hospital.


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