To analyze and report the causes and outcomes of malpractice litigation for patients with a diagnosis of glaucoma.
Retrospective case series SUBJECTS: Malpractice litigation cases METHODS: The WestLaw® database was reviewed for all malpractice litigation with ophthalmologist defendants in the United States between 1930 and 2014. All litigation involving glaucoma was included in this analysis and compared to litigation in ophthalmology as a whole.
The primary outcomes were the number of cases, jury award amounts, if the case resolved in favor of the defendant, and the type of glaucomatous disease or procedure with the highest amount of litigation.
Sixty-nine glaucoma malpractice cases were included. Overall, 62.3% of cases were resolved in favor of defendants. Twenty-nine cases were resolved via jury trial, eight of which were associated with plaintiff verdicts with mean adjusted jury award of $994,260. Ten cases resulted in settlements with mean adjusted indemnity of $1,210,414. Commonly litigated allegations included mismanagement of glaucoma (20.3%), failure to diagnose glaucoma (17.4%), failure to diagnose or mismanagement of angle closure glaucoma (18.5%), adverse drug effects (14.5%), and trabeculectomy complications (8.7%). Overall, median plaintiff award for all of glaucoma litigation was $977,476; the median award across all ophthalmic subspecialties, $568,302 (P=0.25). For jury verdicts alone, the median award in glaucoma was $977,474 compared to $604,352 for all ophthalmology (P=0.05). For settlements alone, the median indemnity payment in glaucoma was $955,988 compared to $827,051 for all ophthalmology (P=0.24).
Overall, the rate of plaintiff verdicts was similar in glaucoma and in ophthalmology as a whole; however, the magnitude of plaintiff awards was higher in glaucoma than in ophthalmology overall. Common scenarios leading to litigation included failure to diagnose or mismanagement of glaucomatous disease, as well as adverse drug effects, and surgical complications. Many cases could have been avoided with careful examinations, thorough documentation in the patients’ chart, and detailed conversations with patients.

Copyright © 2020. Published by Elsevier Inc.