The Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance has released its annual statistical report on filings, verdicts and settlements in medical malpractice (now known as health care liability) cases. The report bears the date "2012" even though the data is from 2011.
The report is helpful to lawyers who represent patients in Tennessee medical malpractice cases because it includes data collected from plaintiff’s lawyers, insurers of health care providers, and self-insureds. There is other data about medical malpractice lawsuits, but this data is reported at the claims level.
Here are some of the highlights from the report:
- Total number of claims closed in 2011: 2332
- Number of claims resolved by judgment: 114
- Number of claims resolved by settlement: 289
- Number of claims resolved by ADR: 145
- Number of claims otherwise resolved: 1784
Note that claims resolved by judgment includes claims in which summary judgment was granted, almost always for a defendant. (It is theoretically possible for a plaintiff to get summary judgment in a health care liability action, but it is rare.)
Now, contrast the 2011 data with 2007 data – 2007 data in bold:
- Total number of claims closed : 2332 3043
- Number of claims resolved by judgment: 114 313
- Number of claims resolved by settlement: 289 492
- Number of claims resolved by ADR: 145 N/A
- Number of claims otherwise resolved: 1784 2238
Why is the number of claims closed down about 20% in the last 5 years? Because filings are down substantially, mostly as a result of changes to the health care liability laws in 2008 and 2009. Filings will continue to decrease given the Civil Justice Reform Act of 2011, which places artificial caps on damages in all tort cases and makes other anti-patient changes to our law.
Also note that we are not talking about the number of health care liability lawsuits that were filed – we are talking about claims. A claim is a demand for money damages. There can be multiple claims in one lawsuit because there can be multiple defendants. In addition, there are claim files that are opened by an insurer or provider but do not result in a lawsuit. There were only 369 health care liability actions filed in the entire state of Tennessee in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012. (Read more statistics about Tennessee personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits by clicking on the link,)
The report goes on to explain that that out of the 2332 closed claims in 2011 payments were made to claimants in 18.74% of them or in 437 claims.
There were 3,950 claims that were still open as of December 31, 2011.
I will address other aspects of the Report in later posts.