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Johnson v. Kokemoor

Supreme Court of Wisconsin
545 N.W.2d 495 (1996)


Facts

Donna Johnson (plaintiff) suffered from persistent headaches and had a CT scan performed to determine the cause. Afterwards, Johnson’s family physician referred her to neurologist Dr. Richard Kokemoor (defendant) who diagnosed Johnson as having an enlarging aneurysm in the rear of her brain. Although the aneurysm was not causing Johnson’s headaches, Kokemoor recommended surgery to clip the aneurysm. Known as basilar bifurcation aneurysm surgery, the operation was one of the most difficult to perform in neurosurgery. Prior to the operation, Kokemoor spoke to Johnson and informed her that he had performed the procedure “dozens of times,” and compared the seriousness of it to a tonsillectomy or gall bladder surgery. Kokemoor also told Johnson that there was a 2 percent risk of death when in reality it was closer to a 30 percent chance when performed by inexperienced physicians. Kokemoor did not mention that she had the option of having the procedure performed by more experienced surgeons. Johnson agreed to the operation. Due to the operation, Kokemoor became a wheelchair-dependent quadriplegic with impaired vision, speech, and other impairments. Johnson brought suit against Kokemoor for failing to properly obtain her informed consent to the operation. After a trial, a jury found in favor of Johnson. Kokemoor appealed arguing that the trial court erred in admitting physician-specific evidence including Kokemoor’s failure to inform Johnson of his lack of experience in performing the operation, Kokemoor’s failure to properly compare morbidity and mortality rates among experienced and inexperienced surgeons, and Kokemoor’s failure to refer Johnson to more experienced surgeons. The court of appeals reversed and Johnson appealed.

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Holding and Reasoning (Abrahamson, J.)

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  • A “yes” or “no” answer to the question framed in the issue section;
  • A summary of the majority or plurality opinion, using the CREAC method; and
  • The procedural disposition (e.g. reversed and remanded, affirmed, etc.).

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