Malpractice study -- Juries sympathize more with doctors

April 10, 2007

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- There's a common belief that juries frequently side with patients in lawsuits involving medical malpractice. A legal professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia's School of Law insists that's not the case.

Philip Peters, who is the Ruth L. Hulston Professor of Law at MU, said that contrary to popular belief, juries actually sympathize more with doctors and less with their patients. The determination was made following an extensive review of numerous studies examining malpractice cases from 1989 to 2006. The studies focused on all medical specialties and evaluated expert medical opinions and the merits of malpractice claims. Peters' research involves medical negligence cases from New Jersey, Michigan and North Carolina; cases of national significance; and those involving major insurers.

"The data show that defendants and their hired experts are more successful than plaintiffs and their hired experts at persuading juries to reach verdicts that are contrary to the evidence," Peters said.

He found that:

"When the jury is in doubt after hearing the conflicting experts, the benefit of that doubt usually goes to the defendant," he said. "This is the opposite of the assumption made by critics of jury decision making."
An abstract is available online at: The complete article, "Doctors & Juries," will be published in the May edition of the Michigan Law Review.

University of Missouri-Columbia

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