Illinois Medical Malpractice Verdict Trends

By Rick Cline, Legal Editor, Jury Verdict Reporter

We did some research recently on medical malpractice jury verdicts in the state of Illinois to see if we could find any trends in regard to medical malpractice jury award amounts. In part, we wanted to see if there was truth to the idea that medical malpractice jury verdicts these days are even harder to win than they have been in past years. We also wanted to see if the award amounts were on the decline, and, if so, by how much.

To test these ideas, we compared Illinois medical malpractice verdicts we reported from the years 2000-2002 against med mal verdicts from 2009-2011. Three-year time horizons were used as points of comparison in order to have a sufficient volume of verdicts to ”smooth out” any particularly large verdicts or other anomalies in any one given year, for example.

We found that medical malpractice jury verdicts have in fact decreased when the total number of verdicts for these time periods is compared. Further, the data does support the idea that it has become increasingly hard for plaintiffs to win favorable verdicts when the cases do go to trial.  Even when they do have success in the courtroom, our research indicates that they are not getting as high awards as they might have in the past, at least for the time periods we compared.

Here are the highlights of what we found:

  • We reported 464 total medical malpractice jury verdicts for the years 2000-2003. Of that amount, plaintiffs won a jury verdict award in 182 of those cases  giving plaintiffs  a 39.2% success rate in Illinois medical malpractice verdicts for this time period.
  • For the years 2009-2011, we reported 382 medical malpractice verdicts of which the plaintiff was successful in 112 of those verdicts. That means plaintiffs were successful in only 29.3% of the verdicts representing a decline of nearly 10%.
  • The decline of Illinois medical malpractice jury verdicts from 464 for the three years between 2000 and 2002 to 382 verdicts from 2009-2011 represents a decline of 17.7% in medical malpractice cases tried.
  • The mean or average verdict award amount when the plaintiff was successful in the years 2000-2002 was $3,294,842 compared with a mean jury verdict award amount of $3,013,686 for years 2009-2011.   Although perhaps not a significant decline at first glance, these awards need to be viewed against the background of steadily rising health care costs over the past decade. Since plaintiff medical costs are a key component in medical malpractice damage award amounts, the decline becomes more significant when comparing the two periods.
  • Of the 464 medical malpractice verdicts from 2000-2002, 17 of them had awards of $10,000,000 or more, representing 9.2% of the 182 successful plaintiffs for that time period.
  • Only 7 of the 111 plaintiff wins for years 2009-2011, or 6.3% of the total, were for verdicts of $10,000,000 or more giving rise to the assumptions that not only is the average verdict down from the beginning of the decade but also that the “home run” verdicts we occasionally hear about are down as well.