If you are a healthcare practitioner wondering if you will be sued someday, the numbers are in: According to a recent study, on average 7.4% of all physicians (regardless of specialty) had a medical malpractice claim annually. By age 45, 36% of physicians in low-risk specialties and 88% in high-risk categories had at least one such claim. By age 65 those numbers skyrocket: 75% of physicians in low-risk, and 99% in high-risk, categories. We can debate why another day, but likely it will happen to you. The question then is how long will you be embroiled in it? Sympathy for the following health care providers for several reasons:
In 2008, the parents of a four-year-old filed a medical malpractice lawsuit on the child’s behalf stemming from alleged birth injuries. It took 15 years for the case to get to court. On April 18, 2023, after a three-week trial, the jury deliberated for just three hours and awarded a $40 Million verdict to the child (now 19 years old) and her parents. The child’s damages stemmed from a placental abruption resulting in fetal hypoxia (lack of oxygen). The child claimed a resulting seizure disorder, mild cerebral palsy, and speech and developmental delays causing intensive physical, occupational, and speech therapy with memory deficits and significant executive function disorders.
The alleged “failures” by the medical staff were verbose and overboard. Interestingly, by the time of trial, the child had graduated from high school, was gainfully employed, and was described as high functioning. But the jury believed the child had life-long limited future potential, according to her attorney.
Fifteen years of the health care providers living with this specter over them. The child doing relatively well by the time of trial. Yet the jury returns what certainly can be summed up as an emotional hurricane verdict. Time here didn’t heal. Time festered in the jury’s eyes. With the upswing in runaway juries these days, one can’t help wondering how the jury would have decided this case if brought to trial ten or more years earlier.