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October 16, 1996

Medical Malpractice and the American Jury: Confronting the Myths About Jury Incompetence, Deep Pockets, and Outrageous Damage Awards

Author Affiliations

US Department of Defense Armed Forces Institute of Pathology Washington, DC

JAMA. 1996;276(15):1266. doi:10.1001/jama.1996.03540150068037

This article is only available in the PDF format. Download the PDF to view the article, as well as its associated figures and tables.


Tort reformers have often portrayed juries in medical malpractice cases as overly generous and irresponsible. Some commentators have advanced the notion that juries, guided by sympathy, are prone to ignore the facts in unfairly favoring injured plaintiffs. According to this argument, unconscionable jury awards can involve huge monetary amounts to compensate for questionable damages and nebulous pain and suffering. In many ways, the jury has become the scapegoat of the entire malpractice controversy.

According to Neil Vidmar, a professor of social science and law at Duke University Law School, this jury caricature has been created in the absence of solid information. This factual vacuum itself promotes exaggeration and fosters stereotypes and anecdotes regarding jury performance. In Medical Malpractice and the American Jury, the author successfully counters this portrayal with a well-reasoned, painstaking analysis of jury verdicts and damage awards. He has examined the results of recent day-to-day litigation in