Think Before You Sue the Doctor

A lawyer writing in the Michigan Law Review has assessed the outcomes of medical malpractice suits, with some interesting conclusions.

1. Contrary to popular opinion, the jury is more likely to sympathize with the physician than with the patient, other things being equal.
2. Juries can usually recognize a weak case, agreeing with the legal experts 80% to 90% of the time.
3. Plaintiffs win 10% to 20% of the cases that independent reviewers feel they should lose, and 20% to 30% of the cases rated as toss-ups.
4. Physicians win roughly half of the cases that independent expert reviewers believe they should lose, based on strong evidence of negligence.

It seems clear that defendants (and their hired experts) are more successful than plaintiffs (and their hired experts) in persuading juries to reach verdicts in their favor and against the opinions of independent reviewers. The moral: don’t sue unless you’re pretty sure you have a strong case.

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