Posted: November 3, 2014

Are state limits on medical malpractice verdicts fair? Consider the case of Ascaris Mayo, who had all four of her limbs amputated after a missed diagnosis for a strep infection led to septic shock. The 53-year-old Milwaukee woman sued and won a $25.3 million verdict. But because of a cap on damage awards in Wisconsin, the amount she could receive was reduced to $750,000. Recently, a county circuit judge ruled that the cap was unconstitutional in this instance. Wrote Judge Jeffrey Conen about the original verdict for the mother of four: “This is not a runaway verdict. It is certainly not outrageous, and no one could seriously argue that it is not in proportion to Mrs. Mayo’s injuries.” The Judge’s 21-page decision applied only to the Mayo case and did not strike down the 2006 cap on non-economic awards, including pain and suffering. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel noted in reporting the story: “For years, lobbyists for doctors and their insurance companies have been urging state lawmakers across the nation to cancel medical malpractice damages caps as part of a ‘tort reform’ movement aimed at ensuring quality medical treatment while keeping medical malpractice insurance costs down. Plaintiff lawyers, however, argue the caps simply keep legitimate malpractice lawsuits from being filed.”