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Father Urges Legislators to Allow Parents to Sue for Malpractice

Drew Martin went before Wisconsin legislators on Thursday urging them to open the courthouse doors to victims of possible medical error.

“We must create a system of accountability (so) there will be fewer parents sent home with keepsakes like this,” Martin told a small audience, which included his wife, Erin Martin, who sobbed as her husband held up a molding of their deceased baby daughter’s face. Their daughter died just a week after she was born. Martin spoke during a Capitol briefing discussing Wisconsin’s medical malpractice laws.

Senator Nikiya Harris Dodd called the briefing and began circulating a bill that would allow the parents who lose their children, including adult children up to age 27 to sue for medical malpractice in the state.

The proposal, known as “Erin’s Law,” in memory of Erin Rice, who, according to court records, died in 1999 at age 20 after an emergency room physician at UW Hospital and Clinics misdiagnosed her condition.

Current law only allows minor children and spouses to sue for medical malpractice and negligence in death cases. The restriction also prevents any adult children from suing for malpractice if a parent dies.

According to Harris Dodd (D-Milwaukee), she scheduled the briefing in order to show fellow legislators the limitations that are made by the state’s current medical malpractice laws that limit who can sue doctors and medical service providers and how much they can collect.

Grace Magdalena Martin was born on August 4, 2014, in Madison’s St. Mary’s Hospital following a normal pregnancy and lengthy labor. Grace was not breathing, had no heartbeat and came out looking gray. Doctors revived Grace and rushed Erin Martin into surgery because she was hemorrhaging.

Both mother and baby survived, but doctors told the Martins that baby Grace suffered severe brain damage and would likely require a lifetime of care. She would likely never speak, walk or socialize. The Martins eventually decided to remove Grace’s breathing tube. That decision severely limited their search for a lawyer who would agree to represent them.

Noneconomic damages, such as loss of companionship, are capped at a maximum of $500,000 for cases involving the death of a child. The child’s estate could also sue for pain and suffering and collect

Such caps on medical malpractice lawsuits act as a deterrent to attorneys taking medical malpractice cases because law offices will quite often spend more than $100,000 researching a case, hiring expert witnesses and only being able to collect a fee for their services if they win the case against malpractice plaintiffs.

If the Martins had not opted to remove her breathing tube and Grace had lived, it would have been much easier to win the case in court. The Martins would also have found more lawyers willing to represent them.

“I learned it is better for doctors and nurses if the patient dies,” Martin said.

Insurance companies, hospitals and physicians associations are well funded and often have had enough political influence to ensure that laws favor their side of any malpractice cases that might be brought against them. In states with settlement caps, the stakes are especially high.

Bottar Leone, PLLC is a nationally recognized law firm that focuses on personal injury and medical malpractice cases. It’s something that we have been doing for nearly 30 years. If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of medical malpractice, contact us today. We will take the time to discuss your rights and the potential of compensation for your health care, medical expenses, loss of income and pain and suffering.

You can contact us directly at (315) 313-6809, or our toll free number, (888) 979-1689, or by sending an email to info@bottarlaw.com.