Number of Medical Malpractice ‘Super Losses’ On the Rise

According to a new report generated by Hiscox, a specialist healthcare insurer, the number of $50-million-plus medical malpractice “super losses” is on the rise. The report claims that—in the last two years alone—juries have awarded more than $1 billion in verdicts that exceed $50 million.

These super losses are rising despite improvements in risk management and patient safety initiatives. Record verdicts have ranged from a lack of staffing at nursing homes to medical negligence at the hospital level.

The report acknowledges that claims frequency has been down nationwide. It also acknowledges that more modest cases of medical malpractice are being well managed. That said, Hiscox reports that the frequency of catastrophic losses—or super losses—is on the rise. It also notes that batch losses, where the a physician or hospital has the ability to place losses together under a common aggregating cause, are also increasing in size and frequency. According to Hiscox senior vice president for healthcare Ian Thompson, the recent case in Maryland where a surgeon was overusing coronary stents in as an example of a batch loss that has the potential to become catastrophic.

According to Hiscox actuary Nick Williamson, more than half of all the largest medical malpractice super losses have occurred in the last five years. He also noted that the frequency of verdicts in excess of $5 million have almost tripled since the year 200.

The Hiscox report noted seven super losses in the last two years. Those verdicts were as follows: in March 2010, a New York jury awarded $60.9 million for a negligence at birth case; in July 2010, a California jury awarded $670 million for inadequate staffing at assisted-living facilities; in July 2010, a Florida jury awarded $114 million for a wrongful death lawsuit against a nursing home; in May 2011, a Connecticut jury awarded $58.6 million for negligence at birth; in August 2011, a West Virginia jury awarded $91.5 million for nursing home negligence; in October 2011, a Michigan jury awarded $144 million for negligence at birth; and in January 2012,        a Florida jury awarded $168 million for brain damage following surgery.

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