A Milwaukee judge has ruled that a woman who lost all four limbs as a result of medical malpractice should be allowed to keep her entire $25.3 million malpractice award rather than have it subject to a $750,000 cap.
The patient, Ascaris Mayo, a 53-year old mother of four, lost her limbs after a strep A infection went undetected, leading to septic shock. The jury found that the doctor and physician assistant failed to provide alternative medical diagnoses that would have led to proper treatment.
In his ruling, the judge wrote that “Mrs. Mayo lost all of her limbs to a septic infection which evidence suggests could have been prevented if [the physician and physician assistant] had offered her standard antibiotics in the emergency room.”
A jury awarded Mayo $15 million for pain and suffering and awarded her husband $1.5 million for loss of companionship. The defense requested that the judge reduce the over $16 million in non-economic damages to $750,000, as specified in the state law.
However, the judge refused to do so, stating that “although the cap may be constitutional as applied to medical malpractice victims as a whole, there is no rational justification for depriving Mrs. Mayo, who is in her mid-fifties, limbless and largely immobile, and Mr. Mayo” of the entire jury award.
While the judge did not rule the law itself unconstitutional, he held that in this particular case “it is unreasonable to require Mrs. Mayo and her husband, whose lives have been so drastically altered, to bear the brunt of the legislature’s intended ‘tort reform.’”
The judge went on to note that payment of the entire award would have little impact on the state managed insurance fund that pays malpractice claims that exceed one million dollars.
This was the first large verdict that had been handed down since the state enacted the cap on damages more than eight years ago. It is likely that the judge’s decision will be appealed; however, his attempt to narrowly word the decision to make it specific only to this case and this plaintiff may allow it to stand.
- Spivak C. “Malpractice cap doesn’t apply to woman who lost limbs, judge rules.” Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel. 2014. Oct 4. Retrieved from: http://www.jsonline.com/watchdog/judge-rules-malpractice-cap-doesnt-apply-to-woman-who-lost-limbs-b99364610z1-278134211.html
- “Journal Times editorial: A blow against the state’s medical malpractice cap.” The Journal Times. 2014. Oct 8. Retrieved from: http://journaltimes.com/print_specific/column/journal-times-editorial-a-blow-against-the-state-s-medical/article_362c543e-3c0a-543f-bcd0-90ae9cfc4a30.html
- Mittleman D. “Wisconsin lawsuits take aim at “insulting” medical malpractice caps.” The Legal Examiner. 2014. Oct 6. Retrieved from: http://lansing.legalexaminer.com/medical-malpractice/wisconsin-lawsuits-take-aim-at-insulting-medical-malpractice-caps