The Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance has released the 2009 Medical Malpractice Claims Report. Despite its title, the Report reveals data for calendar year 2008.
This is the fifth report issued by the Department and contains more different types of data than released in previous years because of a change in the reporting law. Today I will report on some of the data and will address the balance in later posts.
In 2008, there were 3154 medical malpractice claims closed in Tennessee. (More than one "claim" can arise in a single case; a claim is defined as "a demand for money damages for injury or death caused by medical malpractice; or a voluntary indemnity payment for injury or death caused by medical malpractice.") Of those claims 43 were resolved through ADR, 459 were resolved through settlement, 425 were resolved through judgment, and 2227 were otherwise resolved.
I do not understand the difference between those cases resolved by ADR and those resolved by settlement, given the difficulty settling any case without going through a mediation. However, the numbers appear to tell us that almost 70% (2227 out of 3154) of claims are dropped before suit is filed or by voluntary dismissal. How do we know that? Because we know the other 30% or so were settled or resulted in a judgment.
As indicated, 425 were resolved by the entry of a judgment. How many were judgments for the plaintiff? Five. Just over one percent. In other words, there were 420 claims resolved by judgment, and while the exact numbers are unreported it is reasonable to assume that many were resolved by summary judgment and a lesser amount by judgment for the defense after a trial.
The total amount of damages paid for the five cases in which a plaintiff received a judgment was $790,000, or just under $200,000 per claim. The total damages received in the claims that were resolved by settlement or ADR was about $118,500,00, or about $230,000 per claim.
Payments of judgments were down over 90% from a year earlier. Payments by settlement or ADR were about the same as they were in 2007.
The largest reported judgment was $1,150,000. Obviously, that judgment was not paid because it exceeds the total amount of damages paid for all judgments. (if a case is settled post-judgment the amount is recorded as a settlement.)
There were 5,780 claims pending at the end of 2008.
I will share more of the data contained in the Report in a later post.