The purpose of this blog is, I am thinking, to provide clients and other interested persons with a casual (non-legalese) look at events in the law, such as recent cases from the Appellate Courts and other news and developments that might be of interest to non-lawyers (errr, not criminal news though–you have Nancy Grace and Fox News for that). I know what you’re thinking–is that stuff really interesting to non-lawyers? Well, some of it, which is what I will try to show.

Recently I became aware, after the words came out of my mouth, that I sounded pretty nerdy when I excitedly explained to the Wife some new opinion that came down from the Illinois Appellate Court that I found really fascinating on some admittedly arcane aspect of some obscure point of local legal procedure. Well, I thought, that probably wasn’t too much fun for her. I’ve got to make that either interesting or relevant, or not mention it all. Which is what I’ll try to do here.

What can I add that the millions of other blogs don’t? The answer is I really don’t know as I start this off. Well for one thing I don’t care as this is also for me too. It might just be more fun than writing briefs. And hopefully you will enjoy reading it and check back often while learning something.

Which brings me to the title of this blog. It came to me as an alternative to some variation of “solo lawyer” or ” my shingle” or something like that. It has a double meaning. First, I really do enjoy when clients are like friends that call on me when they need something, and I like to do business with people I like and know. Second, I’ve often been identified by my characteristics as a lawyer. “Hey who are you talking about?” You know, Your Friend the Lawyer.

Tort “Reform,” Anyone?

Lucky you. Today we heard from the Supremes. The last time the Illinois Supreme Court issued rulings was January 22, and before that December 17. Here we have a popular and timely topic, what is often referred to as “tort reform.” The Court ruled on a law that imposes medical malpractice damages caps. The law said, in med mal cases, if the plaintiff proves his case, regardless of what a jury has awarded, he can’t actually get more than $500,000 against a doctor or $1 million against a hospital for pain and suffering, disfigurement, and disability or any such “non-economic” damages. The jury would not be told of this cap.

The court said wait a minute, the judge already has the authority to reduce excessive jury awards on its own. And these cap numbers are random. The state said you wait, we need to cap awards because it’s a health care crisis that doctors are paying high malpractice premiums. The court didn’t see that the connection was strong enough. But mainly the court ruled that it is the judiciary’s job (jury and judge) to make sure the damages are appropriate on a case-by-case basis, not the state’s. And since the plaintiff has a right to a jury trial, you can’t just overrule the jury like that. In other words, it’s unconstitutional.

Whew, I did that in two paragraphs. The real opinion is 52 pages. Do you want to read it? Unlikely, but here’s the link anyway to Lebron, a Minor v. Gottlieb Memorial Hospital.

By the way, the case hadn’t gone to trial yet, they were just testing the law at the start of the case.

Fireman’s Rule

This is a case from the Supreme Court January 22. What happens when a fireman is injured during a fire at a new home construction site? In 2001 in Park Ridge, there were no stairs to the basement yet and that area was not covered, and two firemen fell through the gap there. Under existing law, the contractor had no duty to the firemen. Then, in 2003, while the case was pending, the state passed a law saying now there is a duty to firefighters. That was fine. However, it also said it applies to all pending cases. The Court said hold on there, you can’t just change the rules like that after the fact, two years later. Indeed, it’s like making something which you legally did 2 years ago into a crime. So the court said the new law doesn’t apply to this case. In any event, the case, Lazenby v. Mark’s Construction, Inc. had gone to a jury trial and the firemen lost anyway.