Background: Approximately 15% of general surgeons practicing in the United States face a medical malpractice lawsuit each year. This study aimed to determine the reasons for litigation for breast cancer care during the past 17 years by reviewing a public legal database. Methods: The LexisNexis legal database was queried using a comprehensive list of terms related to breast cancer, identifying all cases from 2000 to 2017. Data were abstracted, and descriptive analyses were performed. Results: The study identified 264 cases of litigation pertaining to breast cancer care. Delay in breast cancer diagnosis was the most common reason for litigation (n = 156, 59.1%), followed by improperly performed procedures (n = 26, 9.8%). The medical specialties most frequently named in lawsuits as primary defendants were radiology (n = 76, 28.8%), general surgery (n = 74, 28%), and primary care (n = 52, 19.7%). The verdict favored the defendant in 145 cases (54.9%) and the plantiff in 60 cases (22.7%). In 59 cases (22.3%), a settlement was reached out of court. The median plaintiff verdict payouts ($1,485,000) were greater than the settlement payouts ($862,500) (p = 0.04). Conclusion: Failure to diagnose breast cancer in a timely manner was the most common reason for litigation related to breast cancer care in the United States. General surgery was the second most common specialty named in the malpractice cases studied. Most cases were decided in favor of the defendant, but when the plaintiff received a payout, the amount often was substantial. Identifying the most common reasons for litigation may help decrease this rate and improve the patient experience.
ASJC Scopus subject areas