Tennessee Medical Malpractice Filings Remain Level and Rare

Tennessee medical malpractice (now called "health care liability") cases remained essentially flat for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2013, according to data recently released by the Administrative Office of the Courts.

For the twelve month period ending June 30, 2013, there were a total of 385 health care liability actions filed in Tennessee state courts.  This number compares with 369 cases filed for the twelve month period ending June 30, 2012 and 343 cases filed for the twelve month period ending June 30, 2011.

Medical malpractice filings took a big hit effective October 1, 2008, when the first round of legislation concerning pre-suit notice and certificates of good faith went into effect.     For the fiscal year ending June 30, 2008, there were 537 medical malpractice cases filed and for the prior year (ending June 30, 2007) there were 638 cases filed.  So, when one compares filings from the year ending June 30, 2007 with the year ending June 30, 2013, filings are down about 40%.

Here are the filings in the judicial districts containing the largest cities:

County                       2012-13        2006-07

Shelby County                 119            163

Davidson County               58            166

Knox County                      40             60

Hamilton County                 27            20

(Can you believe those Davidson County numbers?  The reduction is so shocking that   one has to wonder whether there is a reporting error in one year of the other.)

Now, on the last point of my title (filings are rare).  How can I say that?  Well, if one accepts the figure that some 98,000 people die in hospitals every year as a result of medical errors (and it is disputed as being too high or too low) one would expect that just under 2000 people die as a result of errors in Tennessee hospitals each year (since we have about 2% of the nation’s population).  We know (or at least I guess, based on three decades of experience doing this work) that number of injuries as a result of medical errors greatly exceed the number of deaths.  Yet we have only 385 health care liability filings, which means that filings are made on a very small percentage of incidents.