Study: 40% of malpractice cases are without grounds

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About 40% of medical malpractice cases filed in the United States are groundless, according to a Harvard researcher who previously conducted a separate study of nursing home claims.

The findings challenge the view of tort-reform advocates that the legal system is rife with frivolous claims resulting in exorbitant payouts, says lead researcher David Studdert of the Harvard School of Public Health. Many of the frivolous claims were dismissed without a payout or trial, he noted.
"We found the system did reasonably well in sorting the good claims from the bad ones, but there were problems," Studdert observed.
Many of the 1,452 lawsuits examined, which were filed primarily over acute care issues, contained no evidence that a medical error was committed or the patient suffered injury. While most complaints were dismissed without a payout, groundless suits still accounted for 15% of the money paid out in settlements or verdicts.
"The overhead costs of malpractice litigation are exorbitant," study authors concluded. Their findings appeared in the May 11 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
Studdert previously conducted a study of lawsuits against nursing homes that found an astronomically high rate (nearly 90%) resulted in some sort of payout to plaintiffs, usually in the form of a settlement. Authors of that study said the rate was much higher than other areas of personal injury litigation and probably showed extreme reluctance by providers to bring such claims before a jury.