A descriptive review of malpractice claims for health care–acquired infections in Philadelphia

Published:April 29, 2005DOI:


      Philadelphia's rate of malpractice filings per population is just over double the national median. Plaintiffs prevail in 44% of verdicts in Philadelphia compared with 20% for all US jury verdicts, with 24% of awarded verdicts in excess of $1 million.


      To determine patient and procedure demographic data for malpractice claims involving health care-acquired infections (HAIs) in Philadelphia.


      Risk managers representing 60 acute care hospitals, members of Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association, and a random sample of 560 lawyers representing plaintiff and defense cases obtained from the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas database (1996-2002) were surveyed. The survey included the following: number of HAI cases by specialty, body site, isolate, and outcome.


      Overall response rate was 25% (n = 154 cases). The highest numbers of cases were in the specialties of orthopedics (69), general surgery (20), and cardiothoracic (20). Sites infected most often were as follows: knees (26), back (26), sternum (18), and harvest site (10). Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) was responsible for 45 of cases, S epidermidis for 27, methicillin-susceptible S aureus (MSSA) for 14, and Pseudomonas for 16. Twenty-seven of the cases were withdrawn, 27 settled, 11 pending, 9 plaintiff verdict, and 5 defense verdict.


      Although 72% of HAI malpractice cases in Philadelphia were either withdrawn or settled, when brought to trial, the plaintiff was more likely to succeed with a verdict. Our findings also suggest that the most frequent type of infection (class I-surgical site) and isolate (MRSA) are more likely to be seen as preventable HAIs because of National Nosocomial Infection Surveillance data showing lower infection rates for this class of surgery and therefore seen as easier for the plaintiff to show that the defendant failed to adhere to the standard of care for infection control.
      To read this article in full you will need to make a payment

      Purchase one-time access:

      Academic & Personal: 24 hour online accessCorporate R&D Professionals: 24 hour online access
      One-time access price info
      • For academic or personal research use, select 'Academic and Personal'
      • For corporate R&D use, select 'Corporate R&D Professionals'


      Subscribe to American Journal of Infection Control
      Already a print subscriber? Claim online access
      Already an online subscriber? Sign in
      Institutional Access: Sign in to ScienceDirect


        • Jarvis W.
        Infection control and changing health-care delivery systems.
        Emerg Infect Dis. 2001; 7: 170-173
        • Haley R.W.
        • Culver D.H.
        • White J.W.
        • et al.
        The efficacy of infection surveillance and control programs in preventing nosocomial infections in US hospitals.
        Am J Epidemiol. 1985; 121: 182-205
        • Bourjerg R.
        • Bartow A.
        Understanding Pennsylvania's medical malpractice crisis.
        The Pew Charitable Trusts. 2003;
      1. Jordan LJ. Report: PA doctors nation's worst for repeat malpractice. Philadelphia Inquirer. January 26, 2003.

      2. National Nosocomial Infections Surveillance (NNIS) System Report. Data summary from January 1992 through June 2003, issued August 2003.
        Am J Infect Control. 2003; 31: 481-498