Medical Malpractice and Juries

University of Missouri-Columbia law professor Phillip G. Peters, who examined 17 years of medical malpractice cases, is about to publish his findings in a law review article entitled “Doctors & Juries.” In it, he looked at various studies where independent expert witnesses reviewed cases. He found that juries agree with these independent experts over 80% of the time, suggesting that juries are not that far off the mark. However, looking at this statistic the other way, physicians would be alarmed to find out that there is up to a 20% chance that they will be found liable in a case that lacks merit in the eyes of independent experts. Overall, juries are so reluctant to hold physicians liable that they render defense verdicts in half of the cases that independent medical experts think plaintiff should win.

Professor Peters concludes that his research shows that it is very difficult for plaintiffs to win a medical malpractice case at trial. This would largely explain why so many medical malpractice cases are settled outside of court.