A retrospective review of medical errors adjudicated in court between 2002 and 2012 in Spain

Priscila Giraldo, Luke Sato, María Sala, Merce Comas, Kathy Dywer, Xavier Castells

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


© The Author 2015. Published by Oxford University Press in association with the International Society for Quality in Health Care; all rights reserved. Objectives: This paper describes verdicts in court involving injury-producing medical errors in Spain. Design, setting and participants: A descriptive analysis of 1041 closed court verdicts from Spain between January 2002 and December 2012. It was determined whether a medical error had occurred, and among those with medical error (n = 270), characteristics and results of litigation were analyzed. Data on litigation were obtained from the Thomson Reuters Aranzadi Westlaw databases. Main outcome measures: All verdicts involving health system were reviewed and classified according to the presence of medical error. Among those, contributory factors, medical specialty involved, health impact (death, disability and severity) and results of litigation (resolution, time to verdict and economic compensations) were described. Results: Medical errors were involved in 25.9% of court verdicts. The cause of medical error was a diagnosis-related problem in 25.1% and surgical treatment in 22.2%, and Obstetrics-Gynecology was the most frequent involved specialty (21%). Most of them were of high severity (59.4%), one-third (32%) caused death. The average time interval between the occurrence of the error and the verdict was 7.8 years. The average indemnity payment was €239 505.24; the highest was psychiatry (€7 585 075.86) and the lowest was Emergency Medicine (€69 871.19). Conclusions: This study indicates that in Spain medical errors are common among verdicts involving the health system, most of them causing high-severity adverse outcomes. The interval between the medical error and the verdict is excessive, and there is a wide range of economic compensation.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbermzv089
Pages (from-to)33-39
JournalInternational Journal for Quality in Health Care
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2016


  • health policy
  • Medical error
  • patient safety
  • trial
  • verdict


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