A study by Therattil et al. (2017) has revealed that those engaging in plastic surgery lawsuits are more likely to win their case if they have a Board Certified plastic surgery expert witness. It also revealed a growing number of lawsuits, plus that defendants have a greater success rate than plaintiffs.
Who did the study?
The study, entitled “An Analysis of Malpractice Litigation and Expert Witnesses in Plastic Surgery” was conducted by 5 authors: Paul J. Therattil, MD, Stella Chung, BA, Aditya Sood, MD, MBA, Mark S. Granick, MD, and Edward S. Lee, MD. It was published in the Open Access Journal of Plastic Surgery.
How was the study conducted?
The team reviewed legal cases from the Westlaw legal research database (Thomson Reuters, New York, NY), collecting all information regarding cases involving plastic surgery malpractice litigation. After removing duplicates, a total of 93 cases were included in the study. The cases were then coded according to categories such as year, whether the ruling was in favor of the defendant or plaintiff, and whether expert medical testimony was provided, among others.
What were the findings?
The study yielded several interesting findings:
1. The number of plastic surgery lawsuits is rising
Per the authors:
“The rate of malpractice litigation continues to increase yearly. Plastic surgeons are at especially high risk of facing malpractice claims, with recent studies demonstrating that the proportion of plastic surgeons facing malpractice claims each year is 13%.” (Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5638964/)
It should be noted that this is the third highest with only neurosurgeons and cardiovascular surgeons being more likely to be sued.
2. Defendants were more likely to win
Out of the 93 cases reviewed, 61 ruled in favor of the defendant, 22 in favor of the plaintiff, and 10 resulted in settlement.
3. The average settlement for plaintiffs was over $1,000,000
In the 22 cases where the ruling was in favor of the plaintiff, the mean award was $1,036,469. The lowest award was $10,697 and the highest was $4,500,000.
4. The most litigious states (in terms of plastic surgery cases) were California and New York
Almost 27% of the cases were filed in California, 18% in New York, and 7.5% in Massachusetts. Florida was further down the list with 5.4% of cases.
5. The majority of cases were about breast augmentation
Over a third of all cases were about breast augmentation. In second place was liposuction (18.3%), then body contouring (14%), then facial rejuvenation (11.8%).
6. The higher the h-index of the plastic surgeon expert witness, the greater the chance of winning
Interestingly, defendants were more likely to engage plastic surgeons with higher h-indices. This perhaps explains that the defendants won more cases than the plaintiffs. H-index refers to the frequency and impact of an author’s publications. In other words, the higher the quality, and frequency, of publications by the plastic surgeon, the higher the chance of winning the case.
7. Board Certification makes a difference
The study also found that the defense was more likely to contract with plastic surgery expert witnesses who were Board Certified (82.9%), whereas plaintiffs were less likely to do so (64.7%). In other words, it seems that engaging with a Board Certified plastic surgery expert witness coincides with a great chance of winning the case.
What are the implications?
To summarize, it seems that, to increase the chances of winning a plastic surgery lawsuit, it is best to engage a Board Certified Plastic Surgery Expert Witness.
Further information about Dr. Thomas Zaydon, Plastic Surgery Expert Witness
Dr. Zaydon is certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery and is a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. He is also a fellow of the American College of Surgeons. Dr. Zaydon serves as an expert witness on liability cases around the country. He has reviewed many cases and has served as an expert witness for both the plaintiff and defense. He is sought as an expert witness in these cases because of his experience and fairness. Read more about Dr. Zaydon’s role as a plastic surgery expert witness, Plastic Surgery Expert Medical Advisor, or about Plastic Surgery Peer Reviews and Plastic Surgery Independent Medical Evaluations.