Every month or so, I report on the Metro Verdicts Monthly graph on the front of their publication which compares verdicts and settlements for a certain type of personal injury claim in Washington D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. Sometimes I am surprised by the difference in the results.
This month I am astounded by the difference between Virginia, Washington, D.C. and Maryland in median nursing home liability verdicts and settlements since 1987. The median recoveries in Maryland and Virginia are $125,000 and $175,000, respectively. This means that the median settlement and verdict in Virginia is 40% higher than Maryland. Virginia juries are generally more conservative than Maryland so this result is somewhat surprising. But here is what I find surprising: the average nursing home case settlement or verdict in Washington, D.C. is $700,000.
As I written before, Washington D.C. is not the most hospitable jurisdiction for medical malpractice claims. It is helpful that the District of Columbia does not have any medical malpractice caps and certainly that is a factor to be considered. In Maryland, nursing homes can rest easy knowing that is the typical case, it is hard in 2015 to get more than the $755,000 pain and suffering damage cap because nursing home residents rarely have economic losses such as lost wages or loss of household services that tend to drive these claims.
I have not done any sort of sophisticated jurisdictional analysis but I believe there is a general correlation between the size of nursing home verdicts and the size of medical malpractice verdicts. Yet these figures do not appear to support this conclusion. Metro Verdicts Monthly reports that the median settlement and verdict in Washington, D.C. for wrongful death medical malpractice cases over the last 20 years is $665,700. This is much less than Maryland’s median recovery of $900,000 or Virginia’s median recovery of $750,000.
These statistics would surprise me less if the study used average instead of median because the average can be influenced by extremely high verdicts or settlements that can create a misleading picture. But the median settlement or verdict number means that the study divided the jury verdicts and settlements into two equal groups, half having settlements or verdicts above the median and half having settlements or verdicts below the median.
Why Nursing Home Cases Almost Invariably Settle
There are not a lot of nursing home cases going to trial. The reason is that nursing homes know juries in 2015 are wise to the fact that care in these facilities tends to be well below what it should be. Jurors come to trial suspect of nursing homes from the outset. So it is not like a regular medical malpractice case where the jurors assume the doctor is competent and would not likely make a mistake.
The other reason nursing home cases reach a settlement is that there is too much money being made by these large nursing homes to risk a jury verdict that gets printed in the Baltimore Sun. The pain for the nursing home is the article itself but also that people start getting wise about nursing home neglect in this country and you see more “nursing homes are awful” type follow up articles. So the companies will often do what has to be done to make sure these cases never see the light of day and that a confidentiality clause seals the settlement.