Wisconsin Families Support Removing Legal Double Standard

Testify in Support of Family Justice Bill (SB 138)
Wednesday, October 17, 2007

MADISON - Families whose loved ones died as a result of medical malpractice gathered today in the State Capitol to testify in support of Senate Bill 138, the Family Justice Bill.  Joining the families to testify in support of the legislation were members of the Wisconsin Academy of Trial Lawyers.

Under current law, Wisconsin is one of only six states that does not allow the parents of a single adult child, or the adult children of unmarried or widowed parents to seek recourse for medical malpractice through the civil justice system.  SB 138 seeks to change the current law to ensure all people can have their day in court.

"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," said Rob Jaskulski, President of The Academy.  "The current law sets up a double standard that makes no sense."

Among those testifying was Middleton resident Eric Rice.  Mr. Rice's 20-year-old daughter died due to doctor's negligence in 1999.  Despite this fact, Mr. Rice was unable to seek recourse through the civil justice system for his tragic loss because Wisconsin law does not allow it.  Had his daughter been 17 at the time Mr. Rice would have had a claim and could have sought justice.

The Family Justice Bill does not expand who can file a claim to more members of the same family.  Rather, it ensures all families are treated the same way, with the same access to the courts.  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.

"Wisconsin's law is the most restrictive in the nation," said Keith Clifford, past president of The Academy.  "The Academy and its members are standing up for all Wisconsin citizens to ensure everyone in this state has the right to seek justice when a family member dies as a result of negligence.  The legal double standard should be removed."

The list of co-authors and co-sponsors for SB 138 includes Senators Plale, Risser, Hansen, Sullivan and Breske; cosponsored by Representatives Staskunas, Zepnick, Parisi, Hixson, Berceau and Turner.

Mr. Rice, other families, and several trial attorneys are available to talk to the media upon request.

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