September 2016
Volume 57, Issue 12
Open Access
ARVO Annual Meeting Abstract  |   September 2016
Ophthalmology malpractice litigation in pediatric patients
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Stephanie B Engelhard
    Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia, United States
  • Christopher Shah
    Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia, United States
  • Austin Sim
    Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia, United States
    School of Law, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia, United States
  • Ashvini Reddy
    Wilmer Eye Institute Johns Hopkins University , Baltimore, Maryland, United States
  • Footnotes
    Commercial Relationships   Stephanie Engelhard, None; Christopher Shah, None; Austin Sim, None; Ashvini Reddy, None
  • Footnotes
    Support  None
Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science September 2016, Vol.57, 5554. doi:
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      Stephanie B Engelhard, Christopher Shah, Austin Sim, Ashvini Reddy; Ophthalmology malpractice litigation in pediatric patients. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2016;57(12):5554.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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Abstract

Purpose : To report and analyze the causes and outcomes of ophthalmology medical malpractice litigation involving patients under age 18.

Methods : The WestLaw® database was reviewed for all lawsuits including settlements and trial verdicts related to ophthalmology in the United States from 1930-2014. All cases in which plaintiffs were under 18 years of age at time of inciting event were included in the analysis. Pediatric cases were compared to adult cases in the database.

Results : Sixty-eight ophthalmology malpractice cases involving plaintiffs under the age of 18 were included in the study. Thirty-six cases (52.9%) resolved via jury trial. Defense verdicts were issued in 19 (52.8%) pediatric cases compared to 418 (71.0%) adult cases (P=0.021). Seventeen cases (47.2%) resulted in plaintiff verdicts, with a mean jury award of $4,815,692.67 (median, $883,280.97; range, $147,765.38-$42,061,689.81). Nine cases (13.2%) resulted in settlement, with mean adjusted indemnities of $1,912,737.79 (median, $1,377,688.84; range, $92,070.38-$8,493,086.24). The remaining 23 cases (33.8%) involved appellate rulings, post-trail relief rulings, and one bench verdict. Jury awards (P=0.002) and indemnity payments (P=0.003) were significantly higher in pediatric cases than in adult cases. Legal blindness cases were more likely to result in plaintiff verdicts (P=0.210). Common clinical scenarios in cases of litigation were traumatic ocular injury (22.1%), retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) (17.6%), and endophthalmitis (8.8%).

Conclusions : Cases involving pediatric patients were significantly more likely to be resolved in favor of the plaintiff and to have higher monetary value than adult cases. ROP cases 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 is an abstract that was submitted for the 2016 ARVO Annual Meeting, held in Seattle, Wash., May 1-5, 2016.

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