In February 2003, Cathy D’Attilo was an expectant mother preparing to deliver little Daniel into the world. Despite the fact that her amniotic fluid had dropped precipitously a few days before, her doctors waited to perform a Caesarean section. When the C-section was finally performed, a sequence of fateful decisions allegedly resulted in hypoxia and, eventually, cerebral palsy. Cathy and Dominic, who call Daniel their “angel” and love him dearly, filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the health care providers. Earlier this week, a jury in Connecticut agreed with the D’Attilos and awarded them a verdict of $58 million dollars.
Of the award, thought to be the largest in Connecticut state history, $8 million is for future medical expenses. The remainder represents the jurors’ determination of what the D’Attilos deserve for the sort of injuries that don’t come with a price tag: pain, suffering, emotional and physical trauma, and so on. Clearly, the group of ordinary men and women forming the jury felt this was reasonable and just compensation for a child who now faces a lifetime of total dependency, physical limitation, and seizures.
If this very same case had been tried in Michigan, a jury may well have reached the same conclusion. However, due to the draconian damages caps in this state, the judge would be compelled by law to reduce the noneconomic damages award to $734,500. For the vast majority of injuries resulting from medical negligence, the cap amount is $411,300. No matter what the jury decides, this anti-victim, pro-insurance law deprives families of receiving the full measure of justice. Other states have ruled damages caps unconstitutional, and several studies have shown that caps do not save the health care system any money.
It is time to put an end to these arbitrary and unfair caps. Injured patients and their families deserve to have a jury decide the extent of their damages.