Ferdon v. Wisconsin Patients Compensation Fund

701 N.W.2d 440 (2005)

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Ferdon v. Wisconsin Patients Compensation Fund

Wisconsin Supreme Court
701 N.W.2d 440 (2005)

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Facts

When Matthew Ferdon (plaintiff) was born, he was injured by the doctor (defendant) during delivery. Ferdon’s right arm was deformed and partially paralyzed and would never function normally. Ferdon underwent surgeries and therapy and would continue to need treatment throughout his life. Through his guardian ad litem, Ferdon sued the doctor and hospital (defendant) for negligence. Because Ferdon sought more than $200,000 in damages, Wisconsin law required him to name the Wisconsin Patients Compensation Fund (the fund) (defendant) as a defendant. Ferdon’s parents also brought a negligence claim for loss of society and companionship. The jury found the doctor liable and awarded Ferdon $700,000 for noneconomic damages and awarded Ferdon’s parents $87,600. The fund moved to reduce the noneconomic damage award from $700,000 to the statutory cap of $350,000, adjusted for inflation. The trial court granted the motion and reduced the award. The appellate court affirmed. Ferdon appealed to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, asserting that the statutory cap on damages violated the equal-protection clause of the Wisconsin constitution. Ferdon argued that the statutory cap on medical-malpractice awards for noneconomic damages unfairly discriminated against plaintiffs with greater injuries by denying more seriously injured plaintiffs the ability to fully recover.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Abrahamson, C.J.)

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