Denver Channel News discussed a tragic story last week about a teenager who suffered a brain injury who is working to convince state legislators to provide him with the funds he is owed. It is a tragic example of the injustice of so many tort reform measures that our Illinois brain injury lawyers fight hard to oppose.
The story involves the case of a boy who was born in 1997 with a crippling brain injury. His family eventually filed a medical malpractice suit against the hospital where the child was born, because they learned that the injury could have been prevented and was likely caused by inadequate care that was provided by medical professionals involved. The case went to trial and the jury ruled in the family’s favor. They awarded the family $30.8 million, because the overall costs to the child as a result of the harm over the course of his lifetime were significant. The funds would be used for a wide range of care that will help the boy live as normal a life as possible considering the circumstances.
However, the family has not received anything since the jury verdict was reached nearly five years ago.
The reason is based in state law which exempts certain medical institutions from liability. The hospital where the inadequate care was provided happened to be a state institution. As such, it is considered a governmental entity requiring a “claims bill” to be reviewed and passed by the state legislature. Unfortunately, the brain injury lawyers involved in the suit explain that the state has made a habit of “sitting” on these bills and preventing the victims from receiving the amounts that a jury in their community found them to deserve.
Unfortunately, these bills often get caught up in the political process and the unseemly games which are always involved in political matters. In this boy’s case, the state’s Senate heard the bill and passed it, which would allow the child to receive the award. However, things have not gone so well in the state House. That body refuses to give the bill a full hearing, meaning that it cannot be voted on. Until the body votes and approves the measure the child cannot receive the funds. The boy wrote a letter to the state legislature pleading for help. Because the family financial situation is in shambles, that very letter took 3 weeks to write on a rudimentary communications board. The family cannot afford to purchase more advanced tools until the award they received is actually provided.
Situations like these act as a clear example of why the judicial system and the legislature are separate bodies. The judiciary is set up to handle disputes between community members in a fair honest, way. The legislature works in very different ways, and is influenced by a wide range of political pressures which have no bearing on the details of an individual dispute. Intermingling the judicial system with the legislative leads only to unnecessary problems, complications, and unfair delays. As with all tort reform measures, there is little to gain from injecting political influences into the judicial process. All efforts toward this end should be fought tooth and nail to ensure other victims are not forced to wait years to receive awards or, worse, to never receive the award at all.
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