Ascaris Mayo of Milwaukee was admitted to the hospital with severe abdominal pain and fever. Although the E.R. doctors were treating her for an infection, the patient was not made aware of the diagnosis. After spending nine hours at the hospital, Mayo was discharged at midnight without ever being told she had the option of antibiotic treatment to end the possible infection, and was referred to her personal gynecologist for a possible fibroid issue.
Later that day, she collapsed at home and she was seen in a different Emergency Room where she received the proper diagnosis of a septic infection caused by Strep A. Although her infection was quickly halted, the damage to her vascular system was devastating. She and her husband were advised that her infection had spread, requiring amputation of all four limbs in order to save her life.
The 53-year-old mother of four would need to adapt to the use of prosthetic limbs for mobility.
Although her infection was stopped, her treating doctors did not offer her alternative diagnoses before treating her condition by amputating all four limbs. Mayo alleges that had she been presented with other options, she would have sought other treatments before undergoing amputation.
Damages Cap Exemplified
The jury awarded a $23.5 million verdict and the court confirmed this amount, even though Wisconsin’s statutory damage cap is $750,000. The judge ruled that the state’s $750,000 cap on medical malpractice awards was unconstitutional in her case.
Wisconsin state law limits the amount of noneconomic damages a medical malpractice plaintiff can recover. The purpose of Wisconsin’s legislature enacting these laws was to curtail noneconomic damage awards.
According to the statutes, Wisconsin’s goal in implementing this cap was to “ensure affordable and accessible health care for all the citizens of Wisconsin while providing adequate compensation to victims of medical malpractice.” The Wisconsin legislature thought of everything—except for plaintiffs like Mayo.
The court reasoned that they fell within the class of medical malpractice victims who are most affected by the cap, and that applying the cap to these specific plaintiffs was not rationally related to the legislature’s goal of reducing health care costs in implementing the cap.
This case will likely be appealed, since $15 million of the award went towards pain and suffering, and $1.5 million was for her husband’s loss of companionship. As alluded to earlier, this award is ground-breaking, as Wisconsin’s statute caps the award at $750,000.
The jury found no negligence on the part of the physician or physician’s assistant who treated Mayo. It did find that the doctor and his physician’s assistant failed to provide Mayo with “alternative medical diagnoses” that would have led her to pursue other treatment. The jury award included more than $8.2 million in past and anticipated health care costs, which are not subject to state caps.
“Who among us would give up all four of his or her limbs in exchange for $15 million?” the court asked, adding that, “no one would trade these enjoyments for financial gain.”
The judge wrote that the entire $25 million award would have little impact on the state’s $1.15 billion fund that pays medical malpractice claims.
It is difficult to imagine that antibiotic treatments could have been all that Mayo’s body needed to fight the infection before it spread throughout her body. Perhaps if she were not sent home from her first ER visit with a referral to see her gynecologist, she would still have her arms and legs. Do you believe the verdict was fair? Do you agree with the judge in that Mayo’s awards should not be limited by the statutory cap? Feel free to comment on this blog post.
If you or a loved one has been the victim of negligence, you may be entitled to compensation for your damages. Contact one of our Gacovino Lake attorneys at 1-800-246-HURT (4878) for more information.