Monday, July 18, 2005

Wisconsin Supreme Court strikes down med mal caps

Last week, the Wisconsin Supreme Court issued a 4-3 decision striking down as unconstitutional the state’s cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases. The $350,000 cap went into effect in May 1995 (though it was indexed for inflation and had grown to $433,000). The decision rests on equal protection grounds, though the Court did not address other asserted constitutional infirmities.

The Court found that there was no rational basis for the cap, concluding after examining the available empirical evidence that the legislature’s faith in the cap was too speculative to justify a reduction in patient’s rights.

The ruling involved the case of Matthew Ferdon, now 8, who is partially paralyzed and has a deformed right arm as a result of an injury that occurred at birth. The case, Ferdon v. Wisconsin Patients Compensation Fund, runs 179 pages long; the majority opinion was written by Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson.

His parents sued, and Matthew was awarded $403,000 for future medical expenses and $700,000 in noneconomic damages.

But Naze reduced Matthew’s award for noneconomic damages to comply with the state-imposed limits, which had increased to $410,322 by 2002 when the verdict came down.

For more go here.