Surprise! Juries Favor Doctors

This is no news to anyone who actually follows medical malpractice litigation, but it is nice to see that a person who has actually researched the issue confirms conventional wisdom accepted by everyone except lobbyists for the health care industry and the legislators they persuade.

An article in Law.com reports on this new study from law professor Phillip Peters.

A couple excerpts:

*"In the New Jersey study, [ a now defunct liability insurer] asked 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.’

*"He attributed the largest portion of the discrepancy to the normal difference of opinion among doctors about a particular case. Jurors may be reluctant to hold a doctor liable where evidence is unclear or conflicting, out of appreciation for the burden of proof. And jurors may find doctors credible because of their high social status or because the doctors can afford better lawyers and expert witnesses."

* "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."