Characteristics of State and Federal Malpractice Litigation of Medical Liability Claims for Keratinocyte Carcinoma, 1968 to 2018

Raghav Tripathi, Harib H. Ezaldein, Krithika Rajkumar, Jeremy S. Bordeaux, Jeffrey F. Scott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Importance: The prevalence of keratinocyte carcinoma (KC) exceeds that of all other malignant neoplasms combined. Despite the steady rise of payments for medical malpractice liability claims over time, data regarding the characteristics of malpractice litigation for KC are scarce. Objective: To identify state and federal appellate medical malpractice liability cases for KC and determine the factors associated with the verdicts. Design, Setting, and Participants: This retrospective review of KC-related malpractice litigation under state or federal jurisdiction reviewed the LexisNexis Academic database of state and federal cases, legal reviews, and case law. All appellate medical malpractice cases at the state and federal levels involving basal cell carcinoma (BCC) or squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) from January 1, 1968, through December 31, 2018, were identified. Main Outcomes and Measures: Demographic characteristics of the cases and plaintiffs, verdict, health care specialty of the defendant, setting of the litigation, rationale for the lawsuit and verdict, factors associated with the case outcome, and monetary payout in cases won by the plaintiff. Results: In total, 83 cases were included in our analysis (34 BCC cases and 49 SCC cases; 47 [57%] male plaintiffs). Sixty-two cases (75%) were decided in favor of the defendant. More KC-related malpractice cases were won by defendants in more recent years than were won by plaintiffs (mean year, 2004 [SD, 11 years] vs 1998 [SD, 14 years]; P =.03). Twenty-five cases (30%) each occurred in the Northeast and the South, and 45 (54%) involved private practices. Most cases involved KCs occurring on the face, head, and/or neck (39 [47%]), the genitalia (22 [27%]), or the extremities (15 [18%]). More than half of defendants were dermatologists (19 [23%]), family medicine physicians (15 [18%]), or oncologists (8 [10%]). Jurisprudence for KC-related malpractice cases most often occurred at the state level (49 [59%]). The most common causes of litigation were failure to diagnose (18 [22%]), misdiagnosis (18 [22%]), and delay in treatment (11 [13%]). More female than male plaintiffs won their malpractice cases (11 of 35 [31%] vs 5 of 43 [12%]; P =.03). More cases involving SCC than BCC led to a decision favoring the plaintiff (13 of 47 [28%] vs 3 of 31 [10%]; P =.05). In cases won by the plaintiff, the median monetary payout was $179654 and the mean payout was $909801 (range, $11537-$5320161). Conclusions and Relevance: This study sheds light on the characteristics and settings of KC malpractice litigation claims, which is vital information for discovering potential areas of quality improvement, patient safety initiatives, and education for patients and health care professionals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)812-818
Number of pages7
JournalJAMA Dermatology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Dermatology


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