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WI Attorney: $25 Million Jury Award Is Reasonable

PHOTO: Attorney Chris Stombaugh, president of the Wisconsin Association for Justice, says a recent $25 million medical malpractice award in a Milwaukee case, where a woman lost all her limbs because of a missed diagnosis, is a reasonable award, given the catastrophic nature of the woman's injuries. (Photo courtesy of Wisc. Assn. for Justice)
PHOTO: Attorney Chris Stombaugh, president of the Wisconsin Association for Justice, says a recent $25 million medical malpractice award in a Milwaukee case, where a woman lost all her limbs because of a missed diagnosis, is a reasonable award, given the catastrophic nature of the woman's injuries. (Photo courtesy of Wisc. Assn. for Justice)
October 22, 2014

MADISON, Wis. - The president of the Wisconsin Association for Justice says a recent verdict demonstrates a need for change in the state's malpractice laws.

A Milwaukee woman, Ascaris Mayo, who lost all four limbs because of medical malpractice, recently won a more than $25 million jury verdict, in which the judge ruled that the state's $750,000 cap on malpractice awards was unconstitutional in her case.

Attorney Chris Stombaugh at WAJ said the award is huge - but so were Mayo's injuries.

"It's hard to imagine what it would be like as a human being not having legs or arms, and the amount of quality-of-life disturbance that we're talking about here is just probably unimaginable," he said, "and so this number, I think, appropriately reflects what happened to her as a human being."

Mayo, a housewife and mother of four, lost all her limbs because a blood infection went undiagnosed, resulting in septic shock. Judge Jeffery Conen said the award was proportionate with her injuries, and Stombaugh concurred.

"Her ability to lead any kind of a normal life is destroyed. There's no changing that," he said. "But I think she's a testament to an individual's character and strength that she continues on, but that doesn't mean we should undervalue what has been lost in the process."

Stombaugh said the jury's verdict and the judge's ruling indicates there may be change in the wind regarding the state's malpractice award limits. He called the decision "good news" for every Wisconsinite.

"There's a great number of people in this state who are affected," he said, "actually our most vulnerable - the retired, our children, homemakers for example who can't prove that they have an income, but they make tremendous contributions to our lives, who can't afford to bring those cases because the lawyers can't afford to bring them for them."

Stombaugh said the state laws regarding medical malpractice stack the deck against people such as Mayo.

Supporters of the $750,000 cap say it keeps malpractice insurance costs down, but Stombaugh said that's not really an issue in Wisconsin.

Conen wrote that payment of the entire $25 million award would have little impact on the state's $1.15 billion fund that pays medical malpractice claims.

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI