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An Analysis of Medical Malpractice Litigation Involving Orbital Fractures.

BACKGROUND: Orbital fractures frequently require operative management by a plastic and reconstructive surgeon. Due to the proximity to the globe and complexity of the reconstruction, orbital fractures, and related procedures have the potential to be a source of medical litigation. The aim of the present study was to review orbital fracture malpractice litigation, including case outcomes and compensatory damages.

METHODS: The Westlaw and Lexis Nexis databases were queried for jury verdicts and settlements related to orbital fracture malpractice lawsuits. The Boolean terms included "orbit! /10 fracture," "orbit! & fracture," and "ocular & fracture" for both databases. Cases were included if they were state or federal cases related to both orbital fracture and medical malpractice involving surgical or medical mismanagement or misdiagnosis of orbital fracture.

RESULTS: A total of 49 cases from 1994 to 2018 met inclusion criteria between the databases. The most common legal complaint was the defendant's failure to make a diagnosis either by not ordering the proper radiological tests or by not interpreting radiological tests correctly, seen in 35% of cases. In 57% of the cases, the defendant was a surgeon, 46% of which involved a plastic surgeon specifically. Cases were resolved in favor of the defendant 49% of the time. Most cases (57%) resulted in a monetary outcome of $0. However, cases that were decided in favor of the plaintiff had significant compensatory damages with the majority being over $100,000, and 1 case as high as $8 million.

CONCLUSION: Although almost half of the orbital fracture malpractice cases resulted in an outcome favoring the defendant, significant monetary consequences against the defendant were possible in cases when the plaintiff prevailed.

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