Wisconsin Families Seek Accountability
MADISON — The families of seven Wisconsin residents who allegedly died as a result of medical negligence today sent an open letter to State Senators urging them to support Senate Bill 138 when it comes to a vote on the Senate floor this afternoon. The bill, which is supported by the Wisconsin Association for Justice, was passed out of the State Senate Health, Human Services, Insurance and Job Creation Committee with bi-partisan support on a 6-1 vote on December 5, 2007.
Known as the Family Justice Bill, the legislation would change a law that keeps families of single adults from seeking recourse against medical negligence. Currently, the parents of a single adult child, or the adult children of unmarried or widowed parents cannot seek recourse for medical malpractice through the civil justice system.
“It probably comes as no surprise that if someone was involved in the death of a member of your family you would want to hold that person accountable,” reads the letter. “In most cases the court system provides this opportunity. Imagine our outrage when we found out the health care providers cannot be held accountable and justice could not be brought. We didn't believe it at first either, but it's true.”
Under the current law, for example, if a 19-year-old young woman, single and living at home with her parents, were to die due to a health care provider's alleged negligence - the parents would be unable to file a wrongful death claim and seek justice for her death. If the young woman were 17 at the time her parents would have a claim and could seek justice.
“The current law sets up a loophole for negligent health care workers and a roadblock for families seeking justice,” said WAJ President Christine Bremer Muggli. “Right now a family can take a case to court when a doctor causes the death of a married parent, but not a widowed or divorced parent.”
It is important to note that the Family Justice Bill does not expand the number of people who can file a claim to more members of the same family. Rather, it ensures all families are treated the same way, and are able to hold the wrongdoer accountable. The law would continue to require proof that family members show they have suffered a loss of society and companionship, and a jury would make the final decision of whether damages should be awarded.
“We look forward to strong support the Family Justice Bill,” said Bremer Muggli. “You have to wonder how anyone could believe that parents shouldn't be able to seek justice when their 19-year-old single child dies as a result of medical negligence.”