Except as provided in sub. (2m)
, the following actions shall be commenced within 3 years or be barred:
An action to recover damages for injuries to the person, including an action to recover damages for injuries to the person caused or sustained by or arising from an accident involving a motor vehicle.
An action brought to recover damages for death caused by the wrongful act, neglect or default of another.
An action brought to recover damages for death caused by the wrongful act, neglect, or default of another and arising from an accident involving a motor vehicle shall be commenced within 2 years after the cause of action accrues or be barred.
History: 1979 c. 323
; 2015 a. 133
Judicial Council Committee's Note, 1979: This section is derived from previous s. 893.205 but was amended to eliminate language now covered by newly created s. 893.07. (See note to s. 893.07). [Bill 326-A]
Because the parents' claim arising from an injury to their minor child was filed along with the child's claim within the time period for the child's claim under s. 893.18, the parents' claim was not barred by s. 893.54. Korth v. American Family Insurance Co. 115 Wis. 2d 326
, 340 N.W.2d 494
This section and s. 893.80 both apply to personal injury actions against governmental entities. Schwetz v. Employers Insurance of Wausau, 126 Wis. 2d 32
, 374 N.W.2d 241
(Ct. App. 1985).
When a plaintiff's early subjective lay person's belief that a furnace caused the injury was contradicted by examining physicians, the cause of action against the furnace company did not accrue until the plaintiff's suspicion was confirmed by later medical diagnosis. Borello v. U.S. Oil Co. 130 Wis. 2d 397
, 388 N.W.2d 140
While adoptive parents were aware of the possibility that their child might develop a disease in the future, a cause of action did not accrue until the child was diagnosed as having the disease. Meracle v. Children's Service Society, 149 Wis. 2d 19
, 437 N.W.2d 532
When a doctor initially diagnosed a defective prosthesis, but advised surgery as the only way to determine what exactly was wrong, the plaintiff's cause of action against the prosthesis manufacturer accrued when the diagnosis was confirmed by surgery. S.J.D. v. Mentor Corp. 159 Wis. 2d 261
, 463 N.W.2d 873
(Ct. App. 1990).
A brain damaged accident victim's cause of action accrued when the victim discovered, or when a person of the same degree of mental and physical handicap under the same or similar circumstances should have discovered, the injury, its cause and nature, and the defendants' identities. Carlson v. Pepin County, 167 Wis. 2d 345
, 481 N.W.2d 498
(Ct. App. 1992).
Claimed ignorance of, and a blatant failure to follow, applicable regulations cannot be construed as reasonable diligence in discovering an injury when following the rule would have resulted in earlier discovery. Stroh Die Casting v. Monsanto Co. 177 Wis. 2d 91
, 502 N.W.2d 132
(Ct. App. 1993).
The discovery rule does not allow a plaintiff to delay the statute of limitations until the extent of the injury is known. The statute begins to run when the plaintiff has sufficient evidence that a wrong has been committed by an identified person. Pritzlaff v. Archdiocese of Milwaukee, 194 Wis. 2d 302
, 533 N.W.2d 780
A claim of repressed memory does not indefinitely toll the statute of limitations nor delay the accrual of a cause of action, regardless of the victim's minority or the position of trust occupied by the alleged perpetrator. Doe v. Archdiocese of Milwaukee, 211 Wis. 2d 312
, 565 N.W.2d 94
Parents' claims for injury resulting from the sexual assault of their child accrue when the child's claims accrue, regardless of when the parents learn of their claims. Joseph W. v. Catholic Diocese of Madison, 212 Wis. 2d 925
, 569 N.W.2d 795
(Ct. App. 1997), 96-2220
Section 893.53 is the state's general and residual personal injury statute of limitations and is applicable to 42 USC 1983 actions. Hemberger v. Bitzer, 216 Wis. 2d 509
, 574 N.W.2d 656
The diagnosis of a non-malignant asbestos-related lung pathology does not trigger the statute of limitations with respect to a later-diagnosed, distinct malignant asbestos-related condition. Because the malignancy could not have been predicted when an earlier action relating to the non-malignant condition was dismissed on the merits, the doctrine of claims preclusion was not applied to bar the plaintiff's action. Sopha v. Owens-Corning Fiberglass Corporation, 230 Wis. 2d 212
, 601 N.W.2d 627
Even though a plaintiff might plead and testify to having suffered emotional distress on account of a lawyer's malpractice, that fact does not convert the claim into one seeking redress for injuries to the person. The underlying injuries in a legal malpractice claim are to rights and interests of a plaintiff that go beyond, or at least are different from, injuries to his or her person under s. 893.54. Hicks v. Nunnery, 2002 WI App 87
, 253 Wis. 2d 721
, 643 N.W.2d 809
Knowing that a particular product caused an injury, an injured party cannot extend the accrual date for a cause of action against the product's manufacturer due to the subsequent discovery of possible connections between that product and another manufacturer's product in causing the injury. Baldwin v. Badger Mining Corporation & Mine Safety Appliances Co. 2003 WI App 95
, 264 Wis. 2d 301
, 663 N.W.2d 382
Claims of negligent supervision made against an Archdiocese for injuries caused by sexual assaults by priests are derivative of the underlying sexual molestations by the priests. As claims for injuries resulting from sexual assault accrue by the time of the last incident of sexual assault, the derivative claims accrued, as a matter of law, by the time of the last incident of sexual assault. John Doe v. Archdiocese of Milwaukee, 2007 WI 95
, 303 Wis. 2d 34
, 734 N.W.2d 827
A derivative claim for damages due to wrongful death is controlled by the specific statute of limitations for medical malpractice, s. 893.55, rather than the general wrongful death statute of limitations, s. 893.54, and accrues on the same date as the medical negligence action on which it is based — the date of injury, not the date of death. Estate of Genrich v. OHIC Insurance Company, 2009 WI 67
, 318 Wis. 2d 553
, 769 N.W.2d 481
When an action to recover damages for injuries to the person is commenced as a counterclaim pursuant to s. 893.14, the statute of limitations established by this section applies. Donaldson v. West Bend Mutual Insurance Company, 2009 WI App 134
, 321 Wis. 2d 244
, 773 N.W.2d 470
The discovery rule continues to apply to wrongful death claims in the only way in which it reasonably can: by permitting those claims to accrue on the date the injury is discovered or with reasonable diligence should be discovered by the wrongful death beneficiary, whichever occurs first. Christ v. Exxon Mobil Corporation, 2015 WI 58
, 362 Wis. 2d 668
, 866 N.W.2d 602
Federal civil rights actions under 42 USC 1983 are best characterized as personal injury actions. Wilson v. Garcia, 471 U.S. 261
The residual or general personal injury statute of limitations applies to 42 USC 1983 actions. Owens v. Okure, 488 U.S. 235
, 102 L. Ed. 2d 594
See also the notes to s. 893.53
for additional treatments of 42 USC 1983.
Medical malpractice; limitation of actions; limitation of damages; itemization of damages. 893.55(1d)(a)
The objective of the treatment of this section is to ensure affordable and accessible health care for all of the citizens of Wisconsin while providing adequate compensation to the victims of medical malpractice. Achieving this objective requires a balancing of many interests. Based upon documentary evidence, testimony received at legislative hearings, and other relevant information, the legislature finds that a limitation on the amount of noneconomic damages recoverable by a claimant or plaintiff for acts or omissions of a health care provider, together with mandatory liability coverage for health care providers and mandatory participation in the injured patients and families compensation fund by health care providers, while compensating victims of medical malpractice in appropriate circumstances by the availability of unlimited economic damages, ensures that these objectives are achieved. Establishing a limitation on noneconomic damage awards accomplishes the objective by doing all of the following:
Protecting access to health care services across the state and across medical specialties by limiting the disincentives for physicians to practice medicine in Wisconsin, such as the unavailability of professional liability insurance coverage, the high cost of insurance premiums, large fund assessments, and unpredictable or large noneconomic damage awards, as recognized by a 2003 U.S. congress joint economic committee report, a 2003 federal department of health and human services study, and a 2004 office of the commissioner of insurance report.
Helping contain health care costs by limiting the incentive to practice defensive medicine, which increases the cost of patient care, as recognized by a 2002 federal department of health and human services study, a 2003 U.S. congress joint economic committee report, a 2003 federal government accounting office study, and a 2005 office of the commissioner of insurance report.
Helping contain health care costs by providing more predictability in noneconomic damage awards, allowing insurers to set insurance premiums that better reflect such insurers' financial risk, as recognized by a 2003 federal department of health and human services study.
Helping contain health care costs by providing more predictability in noneconomic damage awards in order to protect the financial integrity of the fund and allow the fund's board of governors to approve reasonable assessments for health care providers, as recognized by a 2005 legislative fiscal bureau memo, a 2001 legislative audit bureau report, and a 2005 office of commissioner of insurance report.
The legislature further finds that the limitation of $750,000 represents an appropriate balance between providing reasonable compensation for noneconomic damages associated with medical malpractice and ensuring affordable and accessible health care. This finding is based on actuarial studies provided to the legislature, the experiences of other states with and without limitations on noneconomic damages associated with medical malpractice, the testimony of experts, and other documentary evidence presented to the legislature.
Based on actuarial studies, documentary evidence, testimony, and the experiences of other states, the legislature concludes there is a dollar figure so low as to deprive the injured victim of reasonable noneconomic damages, and there is a dollar figure at which the cap number is so high that it fails to accomplish the goals of affordable and accessible health care. The legislature concludes that the number chosen is neither too high nor too low to accomplish the goals of affordable and accessible health care, is a reasonable and rational response to the current medical liability situation, and is reasonably and rationally supported by the legislative record.
Except as provided by subs. (2)
, an action to recover damages for injury arising from any treatment or operation performed by, or from any omission by, a person who is a health care provider, regardless of the theory on which the action is based, shall be commenced within the later of:
One year from the date the injury was discovered or, in the exercise of reasonable diligence should have been discovered, except that an action may not be commenced under this paragraph more than 5 years from the date of the act or omission.
If a health care provider conceals from a patient a prior act or omission of the provider which has resulted in injury to the patient, an action shall be commenced within one year from the date the patient discovers the concealment or, in the exercise of reasonable diligence, should have discovered the concealment or within the time limitation provided by sub. (1m)
, whichever is later.
When a foreign object which has no therapeutic or diagnostic purpose or effect has been left in a patient's body, an action shall be commenced within one year after the patient is aware or, in the exercise of reasonable care, should have been aware of the presence of the object or within the time limitation provided by sub. (1m)
, whichever is later.
In this subsection, “noneconomic damages" means moneys intended to compensate for pain and suffering; humiliation; embarrassment; worry; mental distress; noneconomic effects of disability including loss of enjoyment of the normal activities, benefits and pleasures of life and loss of mental or physical health, well-being or bodily functions; loss of consortium, society and companionship; or loss of love and affection.
The total noneconomic damages recoverable for bodily injury, including any action or proceeding based on contribution or indemnification and any action for a claim by a person other than the injured person for noneconomic damages recoverable for bodily injury, may not exceed the limit under par. (d)
for each occurrence on or after April 6, 2006, from all health care providers and all employees of health care providers acting within the scope of their employment and providing health care services who are found negligent and from the injured patients and families compensation fund.
A court in an action tried without a jury shall make a finding as to noneconomic damages without regard to the limit under par. (d)
. If noneconomic damages in excess of the limit are found, the court shall make any reduction required under s. 895.045
and shall award as noneconomic damages the lesser of the reduced amount or the limit. If an action is before a jury, the jury shall make a finding as to noneconomic damages without regard to the limit under par. (d)
. If the jury finds that noneconomic damages exceed the limit, the jury shall make any reduction required under s. 895.045
and the court shall award as noneconomic damages the lesser of the reduced amount or the limit.
The limit on total noneconomic damages for each occurrence under par. (b)
on or after April 6, 2006, shall be $750,000.
The board of governors created under s. 619.04 (3)
shall submit a report to the legislature as provided under s. 13.172 (2)
by January 1 of every odd numbered year of any recommended changes to the limits on noneconomic damages established in subd. 1.
The report shall include the reasons why the changes are necessary to meet the intent of the legislative findings under sub. (1d)
Economic damages recovered under ch. 655
for bodily injury or death, including any action or proceeding based on contribution or indemnification, shall be determined for the period during which the damages are expected to accrue, taking into account the estimated life expectancy of the person, then reduced to present value, taking into account the effects of inflation.
Notwithstanding the limits on noneconomic damages under this subsection, damages recoverable against health care providers and an employee of a health care provider, acting within the scope of his or her employment and providing health care services, for wrongful death are subject to the limit under s. 895.04 (4)
. If damages in excess of the limit under s. 895.04 (4)
are found, the court shall make any reduction required under s. 895.045
and shall award the lesser of the reduced amount or the limit under s. 895.04 (4)
Every award of damages under ch. 655
shall specify the sum of money, if any, awarded for each of the following for each claimant for the period from the date of injury to the date of award and for the period after the date of award, without regard to the limit under sub. (4) (d)
Pain, suffering and noneconomic effects of disability.
Loss of consortium, society and companionship or loss of love and affection.
Damages recoverable under this section against health care providers and an employee of a health care provider, acting within the scope of his or her employment and providing health care services, are subject to the provisions of s. 895.045
Evidence of any compensation for bodily injury received from sources other than the defendant to compensate the claimant for the injury is admissible in an action to recover damages for medical malpractice. This section does not limit the substantive or procedural rights of persons who have claims based upon subrogation.
Judicial Council Committee's Note, 1979: This section has been created to precisely set out the time periods within which an action to recover damages for medical malpractice must be commenced. The time provisions apply to any health care provider in Wisconsin.
Sub. (1) [now sub. (1m)] contains the general time limitations for commencing a malpractice action. The subsection requires that such an action be commenced not later than 3 years from the event constituting the malpractice or not more than one year from the time the malpractice is discovered by the patient or should have been discovered by the patient. The patient has either the 3-year general time period or the one-year time period from the date of discovery, whichever is later. Subsection (1) further provides that in no event may a malpractice action be commenced later than 6  years from the time of the alleged act or omission.
Subs. (2) and (3) provide 2 exceptions to the one-, three-, and six-year time limitations contained in subsection (1) [now sub. (1m)]. Subsection (2) provides that when a health care provider becomes aware of an act or omission constituting possible malpractice and intentionally conceals the act or omission from the patient, the patient has one year from the time he or she discovers the concealment or should have discovered the concealment to commence a malpractice action.
Sub. (3) gives a patient one year from the time of discovery of a foreign object left in the patient's body or the time in which discovery should have occurred to commence a malpractice action. The subsection also contains a definition of a foreign object similar to the definition recently enacted by the state of California. [Bill 326-A]
The “continuum of negligent treatment" doctrine is not limited to a single negligent actor. Robinson v. Mt. Sinai Medical Center, 137 Wis. 2d 1
, 402 N.W.2d 711
While an unsubstantiated lay belief of an injury is not sufficient for discovery under sub. (1) (b) [now sub. (1m) (b)], if the plaintiff has information that constitutes a basis for an objective belief of the injury and its cause, whether or not that belief resulted from “official" diagnosis from an expert, the injury and its cause are discovered. Clark v. Erdmann, 161 Wis. 2d 428
, 468 N.W.2d 18
A physician's intentional improper sexual touching of a patient was subject to s. 893.57 governing intentional torts, not s. 893.55 governing medical malpractice. Deborah S.S. v. Yogesh N.G., 175 Wis. 2d 436
, 499 N.W.2d 272
(Ct. App. 1993).
Parents who did not obtain a medical opinion until more than 3 years after their child's death did not exercise reasonable diligence as required by the discovery rule under sub. (1) (b) [now sub. (1m) (b)]. Awve v. Physicians Ins. Co., 181 Wis. 2d 815
, 512 N.W.2d 216
(Ct. App. 1994).
Minors may bring separate actions for loss of companionship when malpractice causes a parent's death, including when the decedent is survived by a spouse. Jelinik v. St. Paul Fire & Casualty Ins. Co., 182 Wis. 2d 1
, 512 N.W.2d 764
When continuous negligent treatment occurs, the statute begins to run from the date of last negligent conduct. The amount of time that passes between each allegedly negligent act is a primary factor in determining whether there has been a continuum of negligent care. Westphal v. E.I. du Pont de Nemours, 192 Wis. 2d 347
, 531 N.W.2d 361
(Ct. App. 1995).
Once a person discovers or should have discovered an injury, nothing, including a misleading legal opinion, can cause the injury to become “undiscovered." Claypool v. Levin, 209 Wis. 2d 284
, 562 N.W.2d 584
The date of injury under sub. (1) (a) [now sub. (1m) (a)] from a failed tubal ligation was the date on which the plaintiff became pregnant. Fojut v. Stafl, 212 Wis. 2d 827
, 569 N.W.2d 737
(Ct. App. 1997), 96-1676
This section applies to persons who are licensed by a state examining board and are involved in the diagnosis, treatment, or care of patients. Chiropractors fall within this definition. Arenz v. Bronston, 224 Wis. 2d 507
, 592 N.W.2d 295
(Ct. App. 1999), 98-1357
Optometrists are health care providers under this section. The coverage of this section is not restricted to those included under s. 655.002, but applies to all who provide medical care and are required to be licensed. Webb v. Ocularra, Inc., 2000 WI App 25
, 232 Wis. 2d 495
, 606 N.W.2d 552
Sub. (4) (f) makes the limits on damages applicable to medical malpractice death cases, but does not incorporate classification of wrongful death claimants entitled to bring such actions, which is controlled by s. 655.007. As such, adult children do not have standing to bring such an action. The exclusion of adult children does not violate the guarantee of equal protection. Czapinski v. St. Francis Hospital, Inc., 2000 WI 80
, 236 Wis. 2d 316
, 613 N.W.2d 120
Sub. (1) (b) [now sub. (1m) (b)] does not violate Art. I, s. 9, of the state constitution, the right to remedy clause, nor does it offend equal protection or procedural due process principles. Aicher v. Wisconsin Patients Compensation Fund, 2000 WI 98
, 237 Wis. 2d 99
, 613 N.W.2d 849
A misdiagnosis, in and of itself, is not, and cannot be, an actionable injury. The injury arises when the misdiagnosis causes a greater harm than existed at the time of the misdiagnosis. The misdiagnosis may or may not result in the injury, and the injury may occur concurrently or there may be a delay between the misdiagnosis and the injury. Paul v. Skemp, 2001 WI 42
, 242 Wis. 2d 507
, 625 N.W.2d 860
The limitation periods under sub. (1) (a) and (b) [now sub. (1m) (a) and (b)] are both tolled by the filing of a request for mediation under s. 655.44 (4). Landis v. Physicians Insurance Company of Wis. Inc., 2001 WI 86
, 245 Wis. 2d 1
, 628 N.W.2d 893
Wrongful death claims caused by medical malpractice are subject to the statute of limitations concerning medical malpractice in sub. (1) [now sub. (1m)]. Estate of Hegarty v. Beauchaine, 2001 WI App 300
, 249 Wis. 2d 142
, 638 N.W.2d 355
Under sub. (1) (b) [now sub. (1m) (b)], the 5-year repose period applies only to actions brought pursuant to the discovery rule in sub. (1) (b). Sub. (1) (b) is an alternative limitations period to that in sub. (1) (a) [now sub. (1m) (a)]. Storm v. Legion Insurance Co., 2003 WI 120
, 265 Wis. 2d 169
, 665 N.W.2d 353
Section 893.16 tolls the period of limitations in sub. (1) (a) [now sub. (1m) (a)] for medical malpractice actions involving qualified claimants, extending the 3-year limitations period up to 5 additional years. Storm v. Legion Insurance Co., 2003 WI 120
, 265 Wis. 2d 169
, 665 N.W.2d 353
For purposes of determining when a cause accrues for negligently prescribing medication, a physician's duty to monitor a patient after a final visit does not continue through some vague and indefinite period during which prescriptions may or may not be filled. Any claim of an omission is for an omission that occurred in the distinct time frame the doctor either intentionally or unintentionally did not require follow-up when giving the prescription or seeing the patient. Wiegert v. Goldberg, 2004 WI App 28
, 269 Wis. 2d 695
, 676 N.W.2d 522
A mother who suffers the stillbirth of her infant as a result of medical malpractice has a personal injury claim involving negligent infliction of emotional distress, which includes the distress arising from the injuries and stillbirth of her daughter, in addition to her derivative claim for wrongful death of the infant. That the sources of the mother's emotional injuries cannot be segregated does not mean that there is a single claim of medical malpractice subject to the single cap for noneconomic damages. Pierce v. Physicians Insurance Co., 2005 WI 14
, 278 Wis. 2d 82
, 692 N.W.2d 558
First-year medical residents who have their M.D. degrees but are not yet licensed are not health care providers under this section and not subject to the limitations on the recovery of noneconomic damages in subs. (4) and (5). Phelps v. Physicians Insurance Company of Wisconsin, Inc., 2005 WI 85
, 282 Wis. 2d 69
, 698 N.W.2d 643
Sub. (7) explicitly allows evidence of collateral source payments to be introduced in medical malpractice actions. If evidence of collateral source payments from sources including Medicare, other state or federal government programs, medical insurance or write-offs, and discounted or free medical services is presented to the fact-finder, the parties must be allowed to furnish the jury with evidence of any potential obligations of subrogation or reimbursement. The circuit court must instruct the fact-finder that it must not reduce the reasonable value of medical services on the basis of the collateral source payments. Lagerstrom v. Myrtle Werth Hospital-Mayo Health System, 2005 WI 124
, 285 Wis. 2d 1
, 700 N.W.2d 201