The Illinois General Assembly has passed a measure that would increase the attorneys’ fees allowed in medical malpractice cases, but would also prevent attorneys from petitioning the court for higher fees.
The Illinois House of Representatives voted 67 to 46 to approve a Senate amendment to House Bill 5151, and the bill now awaits Governor Pat Quinn’s signature. The Senate had passed the bill on a 36-15 vote.
In both houses of the state legislature, the vote was along party lines, with Republicans opposing the legislation. The bill was sponsored by Democratic legislators and had been pushed by the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association (ITLA).
Under existing law, plaintiffs’ attorneys in medical malpractice cases are only permitted fees amounting to one-third of the first $150,000 of the plaintiff’s award, one-quarter of the next $850,000 awarded and one-fifth of any award over $1 million. If approved by Gov. Quinn, the new law will provide for attorneys in medical malpractice cases to charge one-third of the full award, as is typically the case with non-medical malpractice lawsuits. In addition, under the new law, attorneys will not be permitted to petition the court for an increase in fees, something that had become routine under existing law.
ITLA advocated for the change, saying that the new bill would bring fairness to attorneys’ fees, with attorneys in medical malpractice cases being treated the same as attorneys in other cases.
The bill was opposed by the Illinois State Medical Society (ISMS), and the group has urged Quinn to veto it. The group, which represents doctors, said that the bill would roll back previous reforms to the system of attorney’s fees.