Objective To identify common causes of legal action, injuries, claims, and decisions related to medical professional liability claims stemming from cutaneous laser surgery.
Design Search of online public legal documents using a national database.
Main Outcome Measures Frequency and nature of cases, including year of litigation, location and certification of provider, injury sustained, cause of legal action, verdict, and indemnity payment.
Results From 1985 to 2012, the authors identified 174 cases related to injury stemming from cutaneous laser surgery. The incidence of litigation related to laser surgery shows an increasing trend, with peak occurrence in 2010. Laser hair removal was the most common litigated procedure. Nonphysician operators accounted for a substantial subset of these cases, with their physician supervisors named as defendants, despite not performing the procedure. Plastic surgery was the specialty most frequently litigated against. Of the preventable causes of action, the most common was failure to obtain an informed consent. Of the 120 cases with public decisions, 61 (50.8%) resulted in decisions in favor of the plaintiff. The mean indemnity payment was $380 719.
Conclusions Claims related to cutaneous laser surgery are increasing and result in indemnity payments that exceed the previously reported average across all medical specialties. Nonphysicians performing these procedures will be held to a standard of care corresponding to an individual with appropriate training; thus, physicians are ultimately responsible for the actions of their nonphysician agents.