A Crawford County, Wisconsin jury awarded a brain-damaged child and his family $11.4 million last week after a three-week medical malpractice trial.
The article I have read did not break down the economic versus non-economic damages of the award. Wisconsin has a cap on pain and suffering damages in medical malpractice cases of $750,000.
2018 Update: Mayo v. United Healthcare
The Wisconsin Supreme Court upheld the damage caps in medical malpractice cases in 2018 in a case that perfectly highlights the insanity of a cap on damages in a malpractice case.
The plaintiff was athletic, a runner who played tennis and golf and rode and jumped horses. Nice people? She and her husband adopted four brothers as their sons. The sons all went to college. When her boys grew up, she got her college degree. She was a senior at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.
She went to the ER with abdominal pain and high fever. The doctor suspected infection but did not tell the plaintiff or even mention antibiotics. Eventually, nearly every organ failed and caused gangrene in all four of Mrs. Mayo’s extremities. She lost all four limbs.
Today, she is in on oxycodone and gabapentin daily and constantly has residual limb pain and persistent phantom pain. Her doctor testified that she needs a “whopping dose” of gabapentin, one of the highest any of his patients. Even that does not quell all the pain.
Is that case worth $750,000 in pain and suffering? Would anyone say this was justice? The jury didn’t; they awarded $15,000,000.00 for non-economic damages and gave the husband — I won’t get into it but he was amazing — $1,500,000.00 for loss of society and companionship
The trial judge did a courageous thing. He declared the cap unconstitutional, ruling that:
[T]here is no rational justification for depriving Mrs. Mayo, who is in her mid-fifties, limbless and largely immobile, and Mr. Mayo of the award the jury decided was appropriate to compensate them… The Cap is meant to promote affordable and accessible health care in Wisconsin, but it is also meant to ensure that medical malpractice victims are adequately compensated.
Now that is well said. But unfortunately, the Wisconsin Supreme Court found that the caps on medical malpractice awards are constitutional. So all of that suffering for the rest of her life — she has a normal life expectancy — is $750,000. That is insane.