In a study published online on September 1, 2016 in the journal JAMA Ophthalmology, the authors undertook a study of pediatric ophthalmology medical malpractice claims and then compared them to adult ophthalmology medical malpractice claims to discern any differences. The stated objective of the study was to report and analyze the causes and outcomes of ophthalmology medical malpractice litigation involving patients younger than eighteen.
The authors of the study looked at the database maintained by WestLaw for ophthalmology medical malpractice settlements and trial verdicts for the period from January 1, 1930 to December 31, 2014. The authors’ search included the terms “ophthalmology” or “ophthalmologist” and “malpractice.” As a result, 68 ophthalmology medical malpractice cases involving patients who were younger than 18 were included in the study.
The study found that of the 68 pediatric ophthalmology medical malpractice cases analyzed, 35 of the cases (51.5%) were resolved by a jury trial. Of the 35 pediatric ophthalmology medical malpractice cases resolved by a jury trial, the juries found in favor of the plaintiffs in 17 of the cases, which meant that the plaintiffs won in 48.6% of the cases (compared to 28.8% in adult ophthalmology medical malpractice cases decided by a jury — i.e., 168 of 584 adult ophthalmology medical malpractice cases decided by a jury were in favor of the plaintiffs).
The monetary range of the jury awards in the 17 pediatric ophthalmology medical malpractice cases in which the jury found in favor of the plaintiffs was $147,765 to $42,061,690 (mean jury award: $4,815,693; median: $883,281).
Of the 68 pediatric ophthalmology medical malpractice cases analyzed, 9 (13.2%) resolved by settlement. The range of the settlements was from $92,070 to $8,493,086, with the mean adjusted settlement amount being $1,912,738 and the median was $1,377,689.
The study found that the amount of jury awards in ophthalmology medical malpractice cases was higher for pediatric cases versus adult cases, and the indemnity payments associated with pediatric cases were also higher than in the adult cases of ophthalmology medical malpractice. The study also found that ophthalmology malpractice cases involving blindness were more likely to result in plaintiffs’ verdicts. The common clinical scenarios in the ophthalmology medical malpractice cases analyzed were traumatic ocular injury in 15 of the cases (22.1%), retinopathy prematurity in 12 cases (17.6%), and endophthalmitis in 6 cases (8.8%).
The study concluded, “Malpractice litigation involving pediatric patients was more likely to be resolved in favor of the plaintiff and was associated with higher monetary awards than was adult litigation. Cases involving retinopathy of prematurity resulted in the highest payments to plaintiffs, and cases involving legal blindness and/or endophthalmitis were more likely to be resolved in favor of the plaintiff. This information may give pediatric ophthalmologists insight into the situations and conditions that commonly lead to litigation.”
If you, a family member, or a loved one suffered injury or other harm that may be due to ophthalmology malpractice in the United States, you should promptly find a medical malpractice attorney in your U.S. state who may investigate your ophthalmology medical malpractice claim on your behalf and represent you, your family member, or your loved one in an ophthalmology medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
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