Background. A medical malpractice litigation "crisis" exists in this country. Analyzing litigation trends through verdict summaries may help understand causes. Methods. Jury verdict reviews from 1987-2000 were obtained from a computerized database. Reviews compile data on defendants, plaintiffs, allegations of wrongdoing, and verdict summaries. Results. Thirty suits from nine states occurred. Plaintiffs were women in 80% of the cases, with a median age of 41. Fifty percent of patients (15 of 30) had a bad outcome, (9 of 30 dead, 4 of 30 with neurologic deficits, 1 blind, and 1 alive with cancer). Thirty percent alleged surgical complications, mostly recurrent laryngeal nerve injury, and 75% of cancer patients alleged a delay, either through falsely negative biopsies or no biopsy taken. Respiratory events occurred in 43% and frequently resulted in large awards. Conclusions. The liberal use of fine-needle aspiration and documentation of surgical risks may help reduce litigation. Complications and bad outcomes do not indicate negligence. Analysis may contribute to risk management strategies or litigation reform.
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