A recent Jury Verdict Research study looking at jury verdicts found that the average wrongful death verdict for men is $4,132,576 and the median is $1,400,000. The average wrongful death verdict for women is $3,158,223, and the median is $1,200,000.
It is tempting to look at these numbers and provide an easy answer to the discrepancy: men make more than women. But the average wrongful death verdict for a male minor is $4,300,663 (median is $2,000,000) and the average verdict for female minors is 3,438,080 ($1,500,000 median). So it seems pretty clear that, for whatever reason, jurors place a higher value on wrongful death cases involving men and boys than women and girls.
Medical malpractice verdicts made up 36% of the verdicts in this study. Of course, this does not count settlements in wrongful death cases nor does it count defense verdicts. Certainly, when you are factoring in the settlement value of a medical malpractice case, you also need to consider Maryland’s cap on noneconomic damages because in most Maryland medical malpractice lawsuits, the cap on damages is not going to give the victim’s family much more than $1.5 million unless the economic damages (medical bills and/or past and future lost wages) are significant.
The following is a sampling of wrongful death lawsuits and settlements:
- 2020, Illinois: $725,000 Settlement. A man died of hemorrhagic shock while under the care of a hospital. He was admitted after he was involved in a motorcycle accident. His estate claimed that the hospital negligently diagnosed the extent of the man’s traumatic injuries. They alleged that the hospital designated him as trauma level two rather than one, failed to monitor his vital signs, and failed to provide a proper standard of care. The case settled or $725,000.
- 2020, South Carolina: $650,000 Settlement. A man died after he developed a decubitus ulcer in his coccyx shortly after being re-admitted to the hospital. His estate alleged that the hospital staff failed to reposition himself, which caused a pink area around his coccyx to develop. It eventually progressed to a stage III ulceration, and he developed into necrotic tissue in both his heels. His condition worsened after being transferred to the nursing home. He received poor wound and skincare, insufficient hydration, and developed bedsores. His estate also alleged that the nursing home deliberately chose to understaff and underfund the facility to cut costs. He was then transferred back to the hospital, where a dialysis crew discovered a sacral ulceration that was at least 5 cm deep. The ulcer also consisted of necrotic tissue that extended to his thighs. He developed sepsis around his buttocks, rectum, and perineal area. The man died shortly after his sepsis diagnosis. His estate settled with the nursing home for $650,000, consisting of $500,000 allocated toward the wrongful death action and $150,000 allocated toward the survival action. The settlement agreement also included the release of all defendants, including the hospital.
- 2020, Florida: $30,000,000 Verdict. A woman died of a deep vein thrombosis while under the care of an orthopedic surgeon. The surgeon treated the woman for her ankle fracture. Her estate alleged that he failed to timely order heparin or other medications to treat her DVT following her transfer to the hospital. The jury found the physician 5 percent at fault and the physician who treated the woman after she was transferred to the hospital 95 percent at fault. They awarded $30,000,000. However, it was reduced to $1,500,000.
- 2020, Indiana: $975,000 Settlement. A woman died from a pulmonary embolism that originated in her right calf while under the care of an orthopedic surgeon. She initially sought treatment for her fractured kneecap sustained in a fall. Her widower alleged that the treating hospital and their staff negligently treated the woman’s medical condition, which caused her death. The parties eventually reached a settlement agreement, which allowed the estate to recover damages under the Indiana Patient’s Compensation Fund. The widower then filed a lawsuit against the Indiana Department of Insurance’s Commissioner, contending that he and his late wife sustained damages that exceeded the amount that the hospital paid. He sought additional damages. The case eventually settled for $975,000.
- 2020, South Carolina: $750,000 Settlement. A 67-year-old man presented to a physician’s office, complaining of rectal bleeding, abdominal cramps, weakness, and darkened urine. Three days later, the physician performed an exploratory laparotomy. The procedure revealed a perforated colon, which he closed, and a colostomy. Following the procedure, the man sustained kidney failure, liver failure, blood loss, anemia, and metabolic acidosis. He died shortly after. His estate alleged that the physician and health care facility failed to recognize colon perforation and sepsis. They also alleged that their failure to immediately admit him caused multi-system organ failure, abdominal inflammation, and sepsis, which all caused his untimely death. The case settled for $750,000.
- 2020, Texas: $684,000 Verdict. A 74-year-old woman was prescribed Pradaxa for her atrial fibrillation. The physician eventually changed her prescription to Warfarin. Several weeks later, an ambulance brought her to the hospital. She arrived not being able to speak, with a right facial droop, and received an ischemic stroke diagnosis. She died the following day. Her estate alleged that the physician failed to properly monitor, diagnose, and treat her anticoagulation levels. The jury awarded the estate $684,000. This consisted of $320,000 in past loss of companionship, $79,000 in future loss of companionship, and $285 in mental anguish.