Wyoming Medical Malpractice Laws
Each state has their own set of medical malpractice laws in place, and it is important for patients to understand those laws and how they could affect their case. The following are the basics of the laws in Wyoming.
The Wyoming State Constitution bars limits on damages, but there are several state-specific quirks to medical malpractice law that can make a medical negligence claim difficult to prove. In all cases of suspected medical malpractice, individuals are strongly encouraged to speak directly with an attorney about their claims case, concerns, and future legal options.
Expert Testimony Requirements under Wyoming Law Not Required to Initiate A Malpractice Suit
Wyoming requires no separate affidavits or certifications for persons to bring a medical malpractice claims against negligently performing medical professionals in the state. Verification that a person’s injuries resulted from care that fell below accepted medical standards is provided by expert testimony at trial in all instances other than where the malpractice is egregious and obvious, however, the claims process does not initially necessarily require expert testimony in the earliest stages.
Statute of Limitations Applicable to Wyoming Medical Malpractice Lawsuits
Wyoming has adopted a shorter two-year statute of limitations for filing medical malpractice claims. However, the starting point for that two-year period can be disputed.
For example, in Nobles v. Memorial Hospital of Laramie County et al., the plaintiff filed a medical negligence tort suit more than two years after first suffering injuries from the claimed malpractice. Because the patients had been under the continuous care of the various defendant parties for several months after the initial malpractice, while also claiming that the patient had filed a claims case within two years after last being treated by one of the defendants, the Wyoming Supreme Court determined that the Wyoming medical malpractice patient had in fact not missed the statutory filing deadline.
If the act, error, or omission of the defendant is discovered during the second year of the two-year statute of limitations, then the time allowed to bring a claim is extended six months. A minor may bring a claim until his or her eighth birthday. Regardless of when a claim is brought, Wyoming does not cap damages in medical malpractice cases.
Damage Caps Applicable under Wyoming Medical Malpractice Laws
Per article 2, section 4 of the Wyoming State Constitution precludes the enactment of any state laws that establish a maximum limit on damages that can be recovered from injury or death. Or in short, Wyoming medical malpractice laws do not cap or limit the amounts that medical negligence case verdicts can recover on behalf of injured plaintiffs.
Wyoming and the Modified Comparative Negligence Rule in Tort Claims Cases
Wyoming follows the modified comparative negligence rule. In the calculus that determines fault in cases, a defendant per Wyoming law can only be held liable for the proportionate amount of damages that he may have caused. If the injured party is more than fifty percent responsible for his injuries, he will be barred from any recovery for the balance of those injuries in Wyoming, per the state’s 50/50 fault bar to recovery in cases of shared liability between defendants and a plaintiff.
Punitive Damages Permissible under Wyoming Medical Malpractice Law
Under the cases McCulloch v. Drake and Alexander v. Medinah, Wyoming recognizes the award of punitive damages if the plaintiff can prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant’s conduct was “outrageous,” or if the defendant acted with malice, willful and wanton misconduct. Per the Wyoming State Constitution, there is no limit on punitive damage awards.
Shared and Vicarious Liability Standards as Applied by Wyoming Medical Malpractice Law
Given skyrocketing medical malpractice insurance premiums, Wyoming has established an insurance pool that covers damages in medical malpractices cases up to $1 million for each pool participant per year. Wyoming physicians must also carry their insurance to cover the first $50,000 of any claim and must pay into the pool.
This is relevant, as a hospital or medical facility may be vicariously liable for damages caused by medical malpractice (thus further extending an injured person’s opportunity to collect damages) if the hospital or center acted as if the treating physician was a hospital employee and the injured party can show that he or she relied on that employment-related relationship. Extending vicarious liability to the hospital or treatment center is a function of the circumstances of each medical malpractice situation and should be brought to the attention of any attorney reviewing your case.
Unlike some other states, Wyoming does not impose joint and several liabilities on multiple party defendants, and in turn, no one defendant in Wyoming will be held entirely responsible for the entire amount of damages suffered by an injured plaintiff in a medical malpractice case in most instances.
Wyoming’s Modified Comparative Negligence Rule in Medical Malpractice Fault Determinations
Wyoming follows the doctrine of modified comparative negligence. Under Wyoming medical malpractice laws when coupled with the doctrine of comparative negligence adhered to by the state, a plaintiff’s award is reduced by the amount of negligence the plaintiff contributed to the circumstances of his or her injury up to fifty percent. If the trier of fact finds that the plaintiff was more than fifty percent responsible for contributing to their injuries, the plaintiff is barred from damage award recovery of any amount.
Arbitration Mandates Unconstitutional under Wyoming Law
Medical malpractice claims in Wyoming are not subject to mandatory arbitration, as the Wyoming Supreme Court found these requirements to be unconstitutional in the case of Hoem v. State, 1988.
Bench and Jury Trial Options in Wyoming Medical Malpractice Trial Cases
Any party must make a demand for a jury trial, and must specifically demand a jury of twelve jurors. If this demand is not made, the jury shall be made up of six jurors. Regardless of how many jurors sit on the panel, five-sixths must agree to obtain a verdict in medical negligence tort cases in Wyoming.
Wrongful Death Actions and Medical Malpractice in Wyoming
A wrongful death action in Wyoming can be pursued when a death results from the “wrongful act, neglect, or default” of the defendant. The wrongful death case must be filed within two years of the plaintiff’s death by his or her personal representative under Wyoming’s wrongful death statutes, but any dependent of the deceased can seek damages in the action. Dependents can seek compensation for loss of care, comfort, society, companionship, future companionship, as well as pain and suffering from the death of their loved one.