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News & Press: Legislative Updates

Supreme Court Upholds Cap on Noneconomic damages

Thursday, June 28, 2018  
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The Wisconsin Supreme Court issued its ruling on June 27 in the Ascaris Mayo v. Wisconsin Injured Patients and Families Compensation Fund case to uphold the $750,000 cap on noneconomic damages, thus restoring medical malpractice caps in Wisconsin.

In January, WPA joined a coalition of medical specialty organizations to jointly file an amicus brief with the Supreme Court in support of the cap. The collaborative efforts of Wisconsin’s medical community resulted in a major victory for physicians and helped preserve access to healthcare across Wisconsin.

The amicus brief was filed on behalf of WPA, the Wisconsin Chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians, the Wisconsin Academy of Family Physicians, the Wisconsin Academy of Ophthalmology, the Wisconsin Orthopaedic Society, the Wisconsin Radiological Society, the Wisconsin Society of Anesthesiologists, and the Wisconsin Society of Plastic Surgeons by Guy DuBeau and Axley Brynelson, LLP.

The case centers around Ascaris Mayo, who lost her limbs after a Milwaukee emergency room failed to identify an untreated infection. A court awarded her economic damages as well as $15 million intended to compensate for pain and suffering.

The state’s Injured Patients and Families Compensation Fund, which covers large medical malpractice claims in the state, moved to reduce the $15 million to $750,000. An appeals court backed the award and ruled the law unconstitutional.

Chief Justice Patience Roggensack wrote the majority opinion upholding the law, in part because she said the Legislature acted rationally when creating the law

“We conclude that the Legislature's comprehensive plan that guarantees payment while controlling liability for medical malpractice through the use of insurance, contributions to the fund and a cap on noneconomic damages has a rational basis,” she wrote. “Therefore, it is not facially unconstitutional.”