Wis. Supreme Court Rules Med-Mal Award Cap Unconstitutional

July 15, 2005

The Wisconsin Supreme Court has struck down a law capping noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases at $350,000. The court voted 4-3, saying the cap was “unreasonable and arbitrary” and no “rational” relationship between the cap and lower medical liability insurance premiums existed.

Wisconsin is not one of the 20 states labeled by the American Medical Association as having a “medical liability crisis.” The AMA labels states as either in crisis, showing problem signs, being aided by effective reforms, or currently OK. Wisconsin’s medical liability insurance affordability and rate situation is “OK,” according to the Chicago-based doctors group.

Justice David Prosser Jr. dissented from the ruling, writing in his opinion that the “court is not meant to function as a ‘super-legislature’ constantly second-guessing the policy choices made by the legislature and governor.”

The ruling comes in the case of Matthew Ferdon v. Wisconsin Patients Compensation Fund, 2003AP988. The $350,000 cap on noneconomic damages in Wisconsin was established in 1995 and is indexed for inflation. It currently stands at $445,775. The full 179-page decision can be found here.

Topics Legislation Wisconsin

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