Defense advantage in medical malpractice trials
A report which will be published in May in the Michigan Law Review.confirms what most tort law practitioners have long recognized: the defense has a strong advantage in medical malpractice trials.
Philip Peters Jr., of the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law, concluded that juries treat doctors favorably, "perhaps unfairly so," and are more likely than even fellow physicians to defer to a doctor’s opinion. Peters found that most malpractice suits end in defense verdicts, and that the cases that go to trial tend to be the weakest ones, since those with strong evidence usually settle before trial.In an examination of win rates, Peters found that 27 percent to 30 percent of filed medical malpractice suits end in a plaintiff’s verdict, the lowest success rate of any type of tort litigation.
In the study, jurors found in favor of physicians significantly more often than independent reviewing physicians would have. The study asked independent physicians to evaluate incoming claims and rate them as defensible, indefensible or unclear. Plaintiffs won 21 percent of those cases rated as defensible, 30 percent of those rated unclear and 42 percent of those rated indefensible. Thus, plaintiff wins were in the minority even in the most meritorious cases.
Frankly, I wouldn’t think the plaintiff’s win rate is as high in Georgia as the 27 – 30% rate cited in the study. For years I have heard that the defense wins 80% of medical malpractice trials in Georgia, and have seen no data to the contradict that.
"Both piecemeal reforms and more fundamental alternatives to malpractice litigation should not be driven by the mistaken assumption that juries treat physicians unfairly," Peters wrote. "Although the current system of resolving malpractice claims has many shortcomings, neither randomness nor favoritism toward injured patients is among them."
The Shigley Law Firm represents plaintiffs in wrongful death and catastrophic injury cases statewide in Georgia, and in other states subject to the multijurisdictional practice and pro hac vice rules in each state. Ken Shigley was designated as a "SuperLawyer" in Atlanta Magazine and one of the "Legal Elite" in Georgia Trend Magazine. He is a Certified Civil Trial Advocate of the National Board of Trial Advocacy, Chair of the Southeastern Motor Carrier Liability Institute and former chair of the Georgia Insurance Law Institute. He particularly focuses on cases arising from truck wrecks and accidents (tractor trailers truck wrecks, semi truck wrecks,18 wheeler truck wrecks, big rig truck wrecks, log truck wrecks, dump truck wrecks.