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Juries side with doctors in about half of medical malpractice cases with strong evidence of negligence, according to a new review of 30 years of medical malpractice jury verdicts. The study, by professor Philip Peters Jr. at the University of Missouri at Columbia School of Law, also concludes that plaintiffs win only 10% to 20% of cases experts believe they should lose. Defendants prevail in 70% of cases considered toss-ups. Peters notes several promising explanations for juries’ pro-defendant behavior that warrant further study, including juries’ skepticism of patients who file lawsuits against their doctors and the possibility that defendants usually have more experienced lawyers and better experts. The study also theorizes that juries take the burden of proof seriously in medical malpractice cases, which leads them to side with doctors when both sides have credible experts. Peters concludes by noting that medical malpractice reform “should not be driven by the mistaken assumption that juries treat physicians unfairly.” Peters’ Doctors & Juries study will be published in the May 2007 issue of the Michigan Law Review.

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