Hearing loss resulting in malpractice litigation: What physicians need to know

Brian K. Reilly, Gayle M. Horn, Ryan K. Sewell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Objectives/Hypothesis: To evaluate the relationship between hearing loss and malpractice litigation. Study Design: Retrospective study evaluating state and federal civil malpractice litigation pertaining to physician treatment and patient hearing loss in the United States during a 10-year period (2001-2011). Methods: A Westlaw search of the computer database Jury Verdicts-All for 2001-2011 was performed using the search terms "hearing loss" and "malpractice." This database includes jury verdicts, judgments, and settlements. Results: Niney-four cases were analyzed. There were 53 verdicts favorable for the defense (56%), 28 verdicts favorable for the plaintiff (30%), and 12 settlements. One case resulted in a mistrial. Settlements ranged from $42,500 to $12,500,000, and verdicts ranged from $0 to $8,784,000. The average payout for adult plaintiffs was less ($549,157) than the payout for minors ($1,349,121). The average payout for a surgical case was $579,098, compared to $960,048 for medical etiology of hearing loss. Otolaryngologists were the most frequently sued treating physician for hearing loss; the second most common defendant was pediatricians (eight cases). In the 13 cases in which an otolaryngologist was sued, there were nine defense verdicts and four verdicts in plaintiffs' favor. The average indemnity for an otolaryngologist was $313,230. Conclusions: Otolaryngologists are successful in most (70%) hearing loss litigation brought against them. This is true regardless of whether the allegations are of medical error or include operative procedures. Pediatric patients received more favorable jury verdicts when litigating malpractice claims than their adult counterparts, and the payouts were highest when there was alleged birth trauma and/or meningitis. Finally, the severity and degree of hearing loss sustained correlate with higher payouts. Laryngoscope, 2013

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)112-117
Number of pages6
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2013


  • Hearing loss
  • litigation
  • malpractice
  • otolaryngology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology


Dive into the research topics of 'Hearing loss resulting in malpractice litigation: What physicians need to know'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this