Orthopedic surgery produces 20% of medical malpractice claims. However only a few studies have examined the reasons for and consequences of these disputes, and they have usually been limited to a single hospital. This led us to perform a retrospective analysis of the claims at four teaching hospitals in northwestern France. The goals were (1) to describe the circumstances that led to these claims and recommend ways to prevent them, and (2) to describe the conduct of the proceedings and their financial and social outcomes.
A systematic analysis of litigation cases will provide accurate information on the circumstances leading to these claims.
The study included 126 disputes settled between 2000 and 2010 and related to orthopedic or trauma care given at one of four teaching hospitals in northwestern France. The method of recourse, grounds of the complaint, type of surgical procedure, expert findings and amount of the award were systematically analyzed.
Of these 126 cases, 54 (43%) of them were submitted to the French CRCI (regional conciliation and compensation commission), 48 (39%) to the French administrative courts and 51 (41%) were settled amicably. Multiple methods of recourse were used in 21% of cases (n=27/126). The average length of administrative court proceedings was 36.7±27 months [4–102], which was significantly longer than the CRCI proceedings (22.7±17.9 months [3–80]) or out-of-court settlement (23.7±21.5 months [0–52]) (p<0.0001). Damages were sought for medical error or treatment-related risk in 67.5% of the complaints (n=85/126), and for failure to inform in 15.8% of cases (n=20/126). There was a suspected surgical site infection in 79.3% of cases (n=100/126). There were multiple grounds for complaint in 68.3% of cases (n=86/126). Poor communication between the physician and patient was identified in 26.2% of cases (n=33/126). Damages were awarded in 25% of cases (n=31/126), with an average award of €58,303±€91,601 [0–357,970].
The primary grounds for legal action are infection-related complications combined with a deterioration in the doctor–patient relationship. Disputes could be prevented by continuing efforts to combat hospital-acquired infections and providing better communications training.
Level of proof
IV (retrospective study).Le texte complet de cet article est disponible en PDF.
Keywords : Litigation, Traumatology, Judiciary, Compensation