From MSNBC.com: “Health industry frets over ruling against cap on damages.” Excerpt:
The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled July 14 that non-economic damage caps on malpractice jury awards are unconstitutional. Set by the Legislature in 1995 at $350,000, the cap now stands at $445,775, adjusted for inflation.
Also, from the ABA Journal Report–”Med-Mal ruling Has Doctors Reeling: Wisconsin Damage Cap Wiped Out in Rational Basis Review.” Excerpt:
Critics were especially perplexed because the court suggested some caps still might be constitutional, even ones applying to pain and suffering in medical malpractice cases. But the justices offered no hint as to what kind of limit would outlive a court challenge. The options are limited.
You can access the very lengthy Wisconsin Supreme Court opinion here (dissenting opinion included). Key excerpt from the opinion:
Young people are most affected by the $350,000 cap on noneconomic damages, not only because they suffer a disproportionate share of serious injuries from medical malpractice, but also because many can expect to be affected by their injuries over a 60- or 70-year life expectancy. This case is a perfect example. Matthew Ferdon has a life expectancy of 69 years; he was injured at birth. An older person with a similarly serious medical malpractice injury will have to live with the injury for a shorter period. Yet both the young and the old are subject to the $350,000 cap on noneconomic damages. Furthermore, because an injured patient shares the cap with family members, the cap has a disparate effect on patients with families.
The legislature enjoys wide latitude in economic regulation. But when the legislature shifts the economic burden of medical malpractice from insurance companies and negligent health care providers to a small group of vulnerable, injured patients, the legislative action does not appear rational. Limiting a patient’s recovery on the basis of youth or how many family members he or she has does not appear to be germane to any objective of the law. . .
Also, on a related note, KaiserNetwork.org reports: “House Approves Bill That Would Cap Noneconomic Damages in Medical Malpractice Cases.” Excerpt:
The House on Thursday voted 230-194 to approve a medical malpractice reform bill (HR 5), CQ Today reports. The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) would limit non-economic damages to $250,000 and punitive damages to $250,000 or two times the economic damages, whichever is greater.