Characterizing liability for cranial nerve injuries: A detailed analysis of 209 malpractice trials

Peter F. Svider, Peter L. Sunaryo, Brieze R. Keeley, Olga Kovalerchik, Andrew C. Mauro, Jean Anderson Eloy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations

Abstract

Objectives/Hypothesis The potential for adverse events with lasting functional effects makes cranial nerve (CN) injury a target for litigation. Our objective was to comprehensively examine records of malpractice trials and detail issues influencing outcomes. Study Design Retrospective analysis. Methods The Westlaw database (Thomson Reuters, New York, NY) was searched for jury verdict reports related to medical malpractice and CN injury. After excluding nonrelevant cases, we examined 209 trials for characteristics including nerve(s) injured, alleged causes of malpractice, demographic information, specialty, and outcome. Results The most commonly litigated CNs were VII (24.4%) and II (19.6%). Sixty-nine (33.0%) trials resulted in damages awarded. Outcomes varied, ranging from a 29.2% plaintiff success rate for CN XI injury to 48.4% for CN II injury. Plaintiffs had less success with increasing age. Average damages awarded were $1.7 million. The most commonly named defendants were otolaryngologists and general surgeons. Individual considerations varied but commonly included alleged deficits in informed consent (25.4%), unnecessary procedures (14.8%), undergoing additional surgery (25.8%), and untimely recognition of complications (23.9%). Conclusions Malpractice trials were resolved in the defendant's favor the majority of the time. In cases where plaintiffs were successful, however, awards were considerable, averaging nearly $2 million. Factors influencing case outcome included age, location, perceived deficits in informed consent, allegedly unnecessary surgery, requiring additional surgery to repair a complication, and untimely recognition of complications. Although specific factors should be taken into consideration with each procedure, providing detailed informed consent and communicating with patients regarding expectations may minimize liability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1156-1162
Number of pages7
JournalLaryngoscope
Volume123
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Otorhinolaryngology

Keywords

  • Liability
  • cranial nerve
  • malpractice
  • malpractice trial
  • negligence

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