ALTHOUGH THERE ARE no reliable statistics regarding the total number of medical malpractice actions initiated before the Civil War, numerous suits were known to have been filed involving questions of forensic medicine. The disputed surgical death of James King of William (he adopted the strange name from his father's given name, William, to distinguish him from all the other James Kings residing in California), a crusading journalist, is one of the more prominent examples.
Rutkow IM. A Surgical Sponge and Medical Malpractice in 1856. Arch Surg. 1999;134(10):1158. doi:10.1001/archsurg.134.10.1158