While most eye care practitioners strive to provide the best patient care possible, litigation does still occur. New research found that the number of plaintiff awards was higher in glaucoma cases than any other area of eye care, although the rate of plaintiff verdicts were similar throughout the field.

Out of 69 glaucoma malpractice cases, about 62% were resolved in favor of the defendant and 29 cases ended in a jury trial. Of these, eight resulted in plaintiff verdicts and subsequent jury awards of approximately $994,000. An additional 10 cases awarded settlements of about 1.2 million dollars.

The most common litigated allegations included mismanagement of glaucoma (20.3%), failure to diagnose or mismanagement of angle-closure glaucoma (18.5%), failure to diagnose glaucoma (17.4%), adverse drug effects (14.5%) and trabeculectomy complications (8.7%).

Overall, the plaintiff award associated with glaucoma litigation was about $977,000, while the settlement amount across all ophthalmic subspecialties was approximately $568,000. Looking at jury verdicts alone, litigants received about $977,000 in glaucoma cases compared with approximately $604,000 for all ophthalmology lawsuits. For settlements alone, the indemnity payment for glaucoma was about $960,000 compared with approximately $828,00 for all ophthalmology lawsuits.

Many of the included cases could have been avoided with thorough examination, documentation and patient education, the researchers concluded.

Engelhard SB, Justin GA, Craven ER, et al. Malpractice litigation in glaucoma. Ophthalmology. October 27, 2020. [Epub ahead of print].