Decline in Federal Medical Malpractice Lawsuits

Number Latest Month 79
Percent Change from previous month -10.2%
Percent Change from 1 year ago -2.2%
Percent Change from 5 years ago -8.1%

Table 1. Personal Injury - Medical
Malpractice Civil Filings

The latest available data from the federal courts show that during June 2014 the government reported 79 new personal injury - medical malpractice lawsuits filed. According to the case-by-case information analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), this number has continued to show a gradual decline over the last five years.

When monthly 2014 civil filings of this type are compared with those of the same period in the previous year, their number was down 2.2 percent. Civil filings for June 2014 are lower than they were for the same period five years ago. Overall, the data show that civil filings of this type are down 8.1 percent from levels reported in June 2009.

The comparisons of the number of civil filings for personal injury - medical malpractice-related suits are based on case-by-case court records compiled and analyzed by TRAC (see Table 1). The federal government was being sued for medical malpractice in just under half (48%) of these cases.

Bar and line plot of fymon

Figure 1. Personal Injury - Medical Malpractice Civil Filings over the Last Five Years

The long term trend in personal injury - medical malpractice civil filings for these matters going back five years is shown more clearly in Figure 1. The vertical bars in Figure 1 represent the number of personal injury - medical malpractice civil filings recorded each month. The superimposed line on the bars plots the six-month moving average so that natural fluctuations are smoothed out. One-year and five-year change comparisons are based upon the moving averages.

Top Ranked Judicial Districts

Relative to population size, the state of Alaska recorded the largest rate of federal medical malpractice suits filed thus far during the first nine months of FY 2014. Its rate of 18.1 per one million population was more than seven times higher than the national average of 2.4. The District of Columbia ranked second with 14.2 suits per million, or nearly six times the national average. The Southern District of West Virginia (Charleston) was third with a rate of 11.8 per million, just under five times the national average. South Dakota and the Southern District of Illinois (East St. Louis) rounded out the top five.

In sheer numbers, the Northern District of Illinois (Chicago) recorded the largest number of federal medical malpractice suits filed during the first nine months of FY 2014 — a total of 40. The Eastern District of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia) was second with 34 new malpractice suits, followed by Maryland with 23. The Southern District of New York (Manhattan) and the Central District of California (Los Angeles) were fourth and fifth, respectively.

For the number of new medical malpractices suits as well as the per capita rates for the remaining districts in the top 10 rankings in each category, see Table 2.

Table 2. Top Ten Districts by Number and Rate of Medical Malpractice Suits, FY 2014*
Number Rate (per million population)
District Value Top 10 Rank District Value Top 10 Rank
Ill, N 40 1 Alaska 18.1 1
Penn, E 34 2 D. C. 14.2 2
Maryland 23 3 W Virg, S 11.8 3
N. Y., S 20 4 S Dakota 9.6 4
Cal, C 18 5 (tie) Ill, S 8.6 5
Wash, W 18 5 (tie) Ken, E 7.4 6
Texas, W 17 7 Wyoming 6.9 7
Ken, E 16 8 Okla, E 6.7 8
Fla, S 14 9 (tie) Miss, S 6.4 9 (tie)
Kansas 14 9 (tie) Vermont 6.4 9 (tie)
*Covers only the first nine months. There was also a substantial number (33) of new suits filed in Puerto Rico.

Each month, TRAC offers a free report focused on one area of civil litigation in the U.S. district courts. In addition, subscribers to the TRACFed data service can generate custom reports by district, office, nature of suit or federal jurisdiction via the TRAC Data Interpreter.

Report Date: July 23, 2014
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Copyright 2014, TRAC Reports, Inc.