Malpractice Litigation in Glaucoma

Stephanie B. Engelhard, Grant A. Justin, Earl R. Craven, Austin J. Sim, Fasika A. Woreta, Ashvini K. Reddy*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Purpose: To analyze and report the causes and outcomes of malpractice litigation for patients with a diagnosis of glaucoma. Design: Retrospective case series. Participants: Malpractice litigation cases. Methods: The WestLaw database was reviewed for all malpractice litigation with ophthalmologist defendants in the United States between 1930 and 2014. All litigation involving glaucoma was included in this analysis and was compared with litigation in ophthalmology as a whole. Main Outcome Measures: The primary outcomes were the number of cases, jury award amounts, whether the case resolved in favor of the defendant, and the type of glaucomatous disease or procedure with the highest amount of litigation. Results: Sixty-nine glaucoma malpractice cases were included. Overall, 62.3% of cases were resolved in favor of defendants. Twenty-nine cases were resolved via jury trial, 8 of which were associated with plaintiff verdicts with a mean adjusted jury award of $994 260. Ten cases resulted in settlements with mean adjusted indemnity of $1 210 414. Commonly litigated allegations included mismanagement of glaucoma (20.3%), failure to diagnose glaucoma (17.4%), failure to diagnose or mismanagement of angle-closure glaucoma (18.5%), adverse drug effects (14.5%), and trabeculectomy complications (8.7%). Overall, the median plaintiff award for all of glaucoma litigation was $977 476; the median award across all ophthalmic subspecialties was $568 302 (P = 0.25). For jury verdicts alone, the median award in glaucoma was $977 474, compared with $604 352 for all ophthalmology (P = 0.05). For settlements alone, the median indemnity payment in glaucoma was $955 988, compared with $827 051 for all ophthalmology (P = 0.24). Conclusions: Overall, the rate of plaintiff verdicts was similar in glaucoma and in ophthalmology as a whole; however, the magnitude of plaintiff awards was higher in glaucoma than in ophthalmology overall. Common scenarios leading to litigation included failure to diagnose or mismanagement of glaucomatous disease, as well as adverse drug effects and surgical complications. Many cases could have been avoided with careful examinations, thorough documentation in the patients’ charts, and detailed conversations with patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)405-410
Number of pages6
JournalOphthalmology Glaucoma
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Angle closure
  • Glaucoma
  • Litigation
  • Malpractice
  • Trabeculectomy


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