Note: We updated this page in 2023 to include Wisconsin birth injury settlements and verdicts.
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 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 a 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 that suffering for the rest of her life — she has an average life expectancy — is $750,000. That is insane.
Wisconsin Birth Injury Verdicts and Settlements
YEAR / STATE
CASE / INJURY SUMMARY
2018 – Wisconsin
A newborn suffered brain damage at birth. He developed permanent disabilities. The boy’s parents alleged that the hospital staff’s delayed Argininosuccinic lyase deficiency diagnosis caused his injuries. They claimed they failed to recognize the boy’s symptoms, failed to order follow-up treatments, and prematurely discharged him. This case settled for $1,850,000.
$1,850,000 – Settlement
2015 – Wisconsin
A newborn girl sustained shoulder dystocia. She developed a brachial plexus injury. Her parents alleged that the physician’s negligence caused her permanent injuries. They claimed he used inappropriate traction and improperly rotated her shoulders. The physician denied liability. This case settled for $75,000.
$75,000 – Settlement
2015 – Wisconsin
$1,400,000 – Settlement
2014 – Wisconsin
A newborn boy developed spastic quadriplegia. His parents alleged that the midwife’s negligence caused his permanent injuries. They claimed she improperly monitored his prenatal condition, failed to provide appropriate medical treatments, and failed to make healthcare provider referrals timely. This case settled for $750,000.
$750,000 – Settlement
2013 – Wisconsin
A baby boy sustained a brachial plexus injury and a right humerus fracture at birth. His parents alleged that the physician’s negligence caused these injuries. They claimed she used excessive traction for a prolonged period and failed to perform an atraumatic delivery. The defense denied the parents’ claims. A Grant County jury awarded $1,750,000.
$1,750,000 – Verdict
2011 – Wisconsin
A newborn girl suffered a brachial plexus injury and a left clavicle fracture at birth. She developed Erb’s palsy. The girl’s mother alleged that the nurse-midwife’s negligence caused her permanent injuries. She claimed she negligently administered Pitocin, improperly applied manual traction, failed to address shoulder dystocia, and failed to timely contact the woman’s OB/GYN. The defense denied liability. They argued that the OB/GYN would not have changed the outcome. The Milwaukee County jury awarded $360,000.
$360,000 – Verdict
2010 – Wisconsin
A baby boy was born with a skull fracture and metabolic acidosis. He developed cerebral palsy. The boy’s mother alleged that the hospital staff’s negligence caused permanent injuries. She claimed they failed to appreciate her pre-eclampsia signs and performed a vacuum-assisted delivery negligently. The defense denied negligence, arguing that a skull fracture can occur in a normal delivery. A Milwaukee County jury ruled in the mother’s favor. They awarded her $23,200,000.
$23,200,000 – Verdict
2009 – Wisconsin
A baby boy sustained a brachial plexus injury at birth. His parents alleged that the physicians’ negligence caused his permanent injury. They claimed they improperly performed the delivery and provided the wrong standard of care. The boy’s parents also made a vicarious liability claim against the physician’s employers. A Rock County jury awarded $893,684.
$893,684 – Verdict