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Case Law Update: Medical Malpractice Damages

Happel v. Walmart Stores, Inc., No. 07-2264 (4-19-10) found that the plaintiffs were entitled to new trial on damages in action alleging negligence and loss of society under circumstances where defendant-pharmacy knowingly filled prescription of medication to which it knew that plaintiff-wife was allergic since Dist. Ct. gave jury form that provided only single line for jury to make $465,000 verdict in favor of both plaintiffs. Verdict form should have contained separate lines to distinguish damage awards for plaintiff-husband’s loss of society claim, as well as wife’s negligence claim. Error was not harmless where: (1) Dist. Ct. was required to offset jury award with $150,000 settlement from wife’s primary physician: and (2) full off set was not appropriate since record did not indicate that jury assessed wife’s and husband’s claims at more than $75,000 each. This seventh circuit case will have an impact on medical malpractice cases.