Wisconsin High Court Upholds Cap on Noneconomic Medical Malpractice Damages

The Wisconsin Supreme Court upheld the state’s cap on noneconomic medical malpractice damages on Wednesday, reversing a lower-court ruling that awarded $15 million to a woman who had all four limbs amputated after a mishandled infection.

The court ruled 5-2 in a long-running case closely watched by doctors, hospitals and the insurance industry. Chief Justice Patience Roggensack wrote that the Legislature was rational in reasoning that the $750,000 cap would keep health care affordable while providing reasonable compensation for injured people.

“By enacting the cap, the Legislature made a legitimate policy choice, knowing that there could be some harsh results for those who suffered medical malpractice and would not be able to recover the full amount of their noneconomic damages,” Roggensack wrote.

The ruling stems from a case involving Ascaris Mayo. According to court documents, doctors didn’t tell the mother of four she was suffering from a septic infection in 2011. She fell into a coma and her arms and legs had to be amputated after gangrene set in.

Mayo and her husband sued the doctors and the state malpractice compensation fund, an account doctors pay into to cover malpractice awards.

A jury awarded the couple $25.3 million, including $15 million in noneconomic damages, defined as damages such as pain, suffering, inconvenience and disfigurement, and $1.5 million for her husband’s loss of companionship.