Judge upholds $25.3 million verdict for Wisconsin woman who lost all four limbs to undiagnosed infection

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by Jim Orr

Ascaris Mayo, a 53-year-old mother of four, went to Columbia St. Mary’s Hospital in Milwaukee, Wisconsin to undergo treatment for a fever and abdominal pain. After spending about nine hours at the hospital, Mayo was discharged about midnight and told to contact her gynecologist in the morning for fibroid issues. Hospital staff had failed to diagnosis her Strep A infection and failed to advise her that such a potentially-deadly infection was a possible “alternative” diagnosis, given her symptoms. Although a Strep A infection generally causes strep throat, if left untreated, it can caused a patient to develop into septic shock.

Later that day, she collapsed at home and was taken to a different hospital emergency room where she was diagnosed with a septic infection. She was treated for septic shock and the infection was quickly halted. However, by then, the damage (from the Strep A infection) was so severe that all four of her limbs had to be amputated to save her life.

Mayo and her husband filed suit, alleging the doctors should have offered her an alternative or secondary diagnosis, after they failed to diagnose the problem with her. In short, she was never told that a life-threatening bacterial infection was one possible diagnosis, based on her symptoms. If she had she been told that, she alleged she would have sought additional treatment.

A Milwaukee County jury agreed with Mayo, and found the doctor and physician’s assistant who treated her that night at St Mary’s were negligent in failing to advise her that a potentially life-threatening infection was a possible diagnosis. The jury determined the defendants’ malpractice proximately caused Mrs. Mayo to lose her limbs and awarded the Mayos $25.3 million in damages.

$15 million of the jury’s award was for pain and suffering and $1.5 million was for her husband’s loss of companionship. Wisconsin law limits such noneconomic damages to $750,000. The defendants asked Judge Jeffrey Conen to lower the noneconomic damages to that amount.

However, Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Conen has ruled the Mayos should collect the entire jury verdict by declaring the state-mandated $750,000 cap on medical malpractice verdicts to be unconstitutional as applied to Mayo’s case. Conen’s ruling applies only to the Mayos’ case and not to the non-economic damages cap in general. The court wrote that “although the cap may be constitutional as applied to medical malpractice victims as a whole, there is no rational justification for depriving Mrs. Mayo, who is in her mid-fifties, limbless and largely immobile, and Mr. Mayo” of the entire jury award.

The defendants are likely to appeal. Most people watching the case expect it to reach the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Damages recoverable for medical malpractice vary from state to state

More than half of U.S. states have passed some form of a law that limits the amount of money a medical malpractice plaintiff can receive after a successful lawsuit. The American Tort Reform Association and state and federal Chambers of Commerce have spent millions of dollars throughout the country on political campaigns to push for damage caps like the law in Wisconsin.

In most states, the cap limits only non-economic damages, which means things like pain and suffering. However, there are also states with laws that broadly limit all types of damages that might be recovered in medical malpractice lawsuit.

In about a dozen of these states, courts have found a state law limiting damages to be unconstitutional in some way. Legislatures in of some these states have since passed new laws to cap damages. In at least 16 states, courts have determined that a state law limiting damages in medical malpractice cases does not violate the state’s constitution.

Do you have a medical malpractice claim?

Heygood, Orr & Pearson has the knowledge, experience and financial resources necessary to prosecute even the most complex medical negligence case. Our attorneys have successfully represented numerous victims of medical malpractice.

Medical malpractice verdicts, settlements and results by our attorneys include a $6.75 million settlement for the family of an 8 year-old child who suffered permanent brain damage due to medical errors, a $2.2 million jury verdict in a medical malpractice lawsuit arising from the premature discharge of a newborn infant from the hospital with low glucose levels, and arguing the appeal in a case where the Texas Supreme Court upheld a $9 million dollar jury verdict in medical malpractice case.

The attorneys at Heygood, Orr & Pearson are trial attorneys in the truest sense and have tried hundreds of cases to verdict. Our three named partners are all board certified* and have been voted by their peers as Super Lawyers in the state of Texas for several years in a row.** Heygood, Orr & Pearson is AV-rated, the highest legal and ethical rating available from the leading law firm rating service.

If you believe you or a loved one has suffered as a result of medical malpractice, please contact us by calling us toll-free at 1-877-446-9001 or by filling out our case evaluation form for a free consultation to discuss your legal rights and options.

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* Michael Heygood, James Craig Orr, Jr. and Eric Pearson are all Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law — Texas Board of Legal Specialization.

** Michael Heygood, James Craig Orr, Jr. and Eric Pearson were selected to the Super Lawyers List, a Thomson Reuters publication, for the years 2003 through 2014.