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Wisconsin Court Rules Medical Malpractice Caps Unconstitutional


An appellate court has sided with a Milwaukee woman who lost all four limbs due to medical malpractice and ruled statutory caps on non-economic damages unconstitutional.

Woman to Collect $16.5 Million in Pain and Suffering

Ascaris Mayo, a 57-year-old mother of four, had all of her limbs amputated in after doctors failed to properly diagnose a Strep A infection which later led to septic shock, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

In July 2014, a jury determined that Mayo’s healthcare providers were negligent in their diagnosis and care of the infection and were responsible for the resulting amputations. Mayo was awarded $25.3 million.

However, restrictions to the amount Wisconsin victims can collect for non-economic medical malpractice meant that Mayo could only receive $750,000 of the $16.5 million awarded to her and her husband for pain and suffering.

The 1st District Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that this should not be the case. The court noted that the cap is unconstitutional on its face and places an illogical burden on catastrophically injured patients, denying them equal protection under the law.

The case is expected to be appealed at the Supreme Court.

The 1st District Court of Appeals’ decision comes just days after a bill that would create similar limits at a federal level passed the Republican-controlled House.

Current House Bill Would Impose Even Stricter Regulations

If passed, the Protecting Access to Primary Care Act (PAPCA) would cap non-economic malpractice damages to only $250,000.

Additionally, the House bill would:

  • Exempt clinicians who order a drug or medical device from class-action and product liability lawsuits.
  • Require damages exceeding $50,000 be paid in installments.
  • Reduce the statute of limitations for a malpractice suit to 3 years after the wrongful act or 1 year after the plaintiff discovers it (whichever comes first).

Supporters of the bill say PAPCA will reduce premiums and deter frivolous lawsuits; however, opponents view the bill as an infringement on injured plaintiffs’ rights and state prerogatives.

Medical Malpractice Rates in the United Sates

According to the BMJ, medical errors result in 251,454 deaths every year, making it the third leading cause of death in the United States behind heart disease and cancer. Even when not fatal, medical errors can result in a life-time of pain and disability.

It is important to note, not all medical errors will result in a medical malpractice claim. In fact, medical malpractice requires that plaintiffs prove:

  • A doctor-patient relationship existed
  • The doctor was negligent in their diagnosis or treatment
  • The doctor’s negligence was the cause of the injury claimed
  • The injury claimed led to specific damages

Common forms of medical malpractice include:

  • Misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis
  • Childbirth injuries
  • Medication errors
  • Anesthesia errors
  • Surgery errors

 

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