Ophthalmology-Related Malpractice Lawsuits Examined

This article is part of MPR’s coverage of the American Academy of Ophthalmology 2019 Meeting, taking place in San Francisco, CA. Our staff will report on medical research related to eye disorders, conducted by experts in the field. Check back regularly for more news from AAO 2019.

SAN FRANCISCO – A retrospective analysis presented at the 2019 American Academy of Ophthalmology Meeting in San Francisco, CA describes cases of medical malpractice claims involving ophthalmologists.

To investigate outcomes associated with ophthalmology-related lawsuits, the study authors searched the WestLawNext database. They identified 166 cases across 15 states, of which 116 met the inclusion criteria. 

Results showed that among these cases, 79% (n=91) were related to ophthalmic procedures, particularly cataract (43%) and LASIK surgery (32%). Payout occurred most frequently with cataract surgery, but overall the payout was lower than with other procedures. Lasik surgery was determined to have the highest payout resulting from a malpractice claim. Among cases that did not involve a procedure, the most common malpractice claim (42%) was for “failure to diagnose in a timely manner.” Medication errors resulted in payout 60% of the time; payout in eye exam-related cases occurred 50% of the time.

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“The average payout in this study was $2.59M, the most expensive of which was for failure to properly screen and diagnose a pair of twins with retinoblastoma ($38M),” the authors added.

The relatively narrow scope of data, including self-reported cases, was a limitation of the study. “A comprehensive nationwide dataset of malpractice claims would be a useful resource in helping to better [understand] malpractice claims affecting ophthalmology patients and practices,” they concluded.


Commiskey, P, et al. Medical Malpractice Claims Related to Ophthalmology: A WestLawNext Database Analysis. Poster number: PO157. The American Academy of Ophthalmology Meeting; October 12-15 2019.