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On Jan. 18, 2013, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed into legislation House Bill 5151, which increases the amount that plaintiff’s attorneys in medical malpractice cases can collect, while eradicating the right of these attorneys to petition trial courts for enhanced fees in certain cases.

With the signing of the bill into law, plaintiff’s attorneys will now be able to collect a full 1/3 of all awards. This measure replaces the previous three-tiered approach, wherein plaintiff’s attorneys collected 1/3 of up to $150,000, 25% of $150,000 to $1,000,000, and then 20% of awards of over $1,000,000, and puts collections in medical malpractice cases in line with those of other tort cases.

The passage of the bill was not without controversy, and represents just the latest in a decades-long skirmish between two powerful lobbies in Illinois, the trial lawyers, led by the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association (ITLA) and the health care providers, led by the Illinois State Medical Society (ISMS).  The trial lawyers argue that the legislation will result in more consistency and cost certainty for victims of medical malpractice and their attorneys, while freeing up the time that trial courts have historically spent on adjudicating petitions for enhanced fees.  However, the providers’ lobby argues that the enactment of the law runs counter to the purpose of awards in medical malpractice cases, e.g., to compensate victims of medical malpractice for their damages.

Some observers feel the passage of the bill was fast-tracked, as emerged in the Illinois Senate on Jan. 2, 2013, attached to a measure that involved firearm ranges.  After passing through the state Senate, the bill was sponsored in the Illinois House of Representatives by its powerful Democratic speaker, Michael J. Madigan. It was subsequently passed in the statehouse by a 67-46 vote, and went on to the governor’s desk for his signature.