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Laryngoscope. 2014 Apr;124(4):896-901. doi: 10.1002/lary.24377. Epub 2013 Oct 7.

Otolaryngology and medical malpractice: A review of the past decade, 2001-2011.

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  • 1Department of Otolaryngology, Tripler Army Medical Center, Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S.A.



To better understand the causes and outcomes of lawsuits involving otolaryngologists in the past decade by analyzing malpractice litigation trends to prevent future litigation and improve physician education.


Analysis of a national database for all US civil trials.


The Westlaw database was reviewed from 2001 to 2011. Data were compiled on the demographics of the plaintiffs, use of expert witnesses, procedures, nature of the injury, legal allegations, verdicts, and indemnities.


One hundred ninety-eight cases met inclusion criteria. Verdicts for the defendant/otolaryngologist predominated (58%), whereas the average award when the verdict favored the plaintiff was $1,782,514. When otolaryngologists were used as expert witnesses by the defense, the verdict outcome statistically favored the defendant. Two of the most commonly cited legal allegations were improper performance and failure to diagnose and treat. Fifty-one cases involved allegations of wrongful death, with the overall outcome favoring the plaintiffs (51%). The average indemnities in these cases were significantly higher for plaintiff verdicts at $2,552,580 versus settlements at $992,896. Forty-two cases involved malignancy, with the two most common allegations being failure to diagnose and treat (79%) and delay in diagnosis (74%).


Our study reveals that in the past decade, in significant malpractice litigations, overall outcomes favored otolaryngologists. The average awards was significantly higher when cases involved malignancy. Our analysis reveals the importance of meticulous surgical techniques and thorough preoperative evaluations. Last, when otolaryngologists are defendants in litigation, our review reiterates the value of the otolaryngologist as the defense's expert witnesses.

© 2013 The American Laryngological, Rhinological and Otological Society, Inc.


Malpractice; informed consent; lawsuit; legal; wrongful death

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