Med-mal awards rise some but are starting to level off

Jury awards for medical-malpractice claims rose fractionally in recent months while awards for all personal-injury liabilities fell significantly, according to a report from Jury Verdict Research in Horsham, PA.

After steadily climbing more than 100% from 1996 to 2000, the compensatory jury award median for medical-malpractice cases has leveled off the last three years studied. The percentage of $1 million or more medical-malpractice verdicts remained the same from 1999 through 2002 at 52%, says Jennifer Shannon, Jury Verdict Research managing editor.

While the medical-malpractice plaintiff recovery rate (ratio of plaintiff verdicts to total verdicts) was up two percentage points in 2002, defendants still won the majority of those cases. "From the jury-award median to the plaintiff recovery rate to the percentage of million-dollar awards, our med-mal statistics have remained relatively flat the last few years," Shannon says. "It’s safe to say the trend is no trend, according to our latest figures."

On the other hand, the overall compensatory jury-award median for personal-injury cases fell 30% in 2002. The study of personal-injury jury awards also reported that the compensatory jury-award median for premises-liability cases was up less than 1% to $150,000, while the plaintiff recovery rate declined four points to 49% in 2002. The products-liability jury-award median dropped 7% to $1.8 million, but the plaintiff success rate jumped five points to 61%.