Fewer Medical Malpractice Cases During COVID

Those who try to find the good in every situation can rest assured that even COVID has one — depending on your job. Doctors and surgeons have received a brief respite in medical malpractice cases due to COVID-19. Fewer people have risked going to the hospital for non-serious or non-life threatening illnesses or medical procedures. That means hospitals are losing less money due to frivolous lawsuits. Doctors are under less pressure (at least as far as litigation is concerned).

Here’s a frightening statistic: over the last 12 months only 42 percent of primary care providers have been hit with medical malpractice suits. That’s high, right? There’s nearly a 50/50 chance that your last doctor was sued in the last year! Think again. That’s down a whopping 52 percent from the same time period in 2019. In other words: doctors get sued all the time. 

Over 2021, you were most likely to be sued if you worked in surgery. You were even more likely to be sued if you happened to live in NJ

Lead Author Leslie Kane of the Medscape Malpractice Report of 2021 wrote, “Outside circumstances do play a role in the amount of lawsuits. One of the phenomena noted during COVID was that people were on Zoom meetings, often for hours a day, and had time to look at their faces in-depth and detail. This definitely led to a larger demand for plastic surgery and more potential for lawsuits.”

Unfortunately, public interest in the coronavirus pandemic has waned even as case counts skyrocket. And state supreme courts continue to hear important cases from years past and right now. For example, Indiana’s Supreme Court is poised to make rulings on child deposition, medical malpractice, and civil forfeiture. Lake Imaging, LLC v Franciscan Alliance, Inc. f/d/b/a Saint Margaret Mercy Health Centers; ProAssurance Indemnity Company, Inc., will decide if medical malpractice laws stop with a patient’s claim. 

Franciscan Alliance is the plaintiff in the case, suing the radiology organization for indemnification of a previous settlement that was made with relatives of a patient who died after receiving care. The ruling by the state supreme court could resonate and provide precedent for similar cases in other states. 

In one of the strangest cases over the past year, Iowa’s Court of Appeals will soon hear arguments in a case wherein the plaintiff was given a vasectomy by his surgeon — instead of the circumcision he was supposed to receive. Myanmar immigrant Zaw Zaw was referred to the Iowa Clinic for the circumcision before everything went wrong. Zaw does not speak English, however, and so there is the question of which party represents the right defendant: the surgeon or the translator. Because of the nature of the incident, it might be a tough case for Zaw to win in court. 

Courts thus far have argued back and forth about whether or not a simple miscommunication would be considered a breach of a doctor’s established standard of care. We’ll have to wait for a decision to be made.