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North Dakota saw fewest medical malpractice payouts of all states in past decade

North Dakota has seen just 100 medical malpractice cases paid out since 2012, the fewest in the nation. Payouts in the state totalled just over $27.3 million compared to the $853 million disbursed in Ohio.

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BISMARCK — North Dakota has seen the fewest number of medical malpractice payouts in the past decade, a report finds, though the average amount paid out by health care providers is much higher than other states.

Statistics collected by the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB), a subsidiary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, find that providers in North Dakota have made only 100 malpractice payouts between January 2012 and June 2022, the fewest of all states.

While North Dakota’s 100 payouts originated from malpractice reports in a variety of medical settings, 78 of the reports involved physicians, physician’s assistants and nurses while 13 involved chiropractors, dentists and optometrists.

While North Dakota holds the throne for the fewest payouts as a raw number, a report from pharmaceutical advocacy service NiceRx found that, when adjusting for population, North Dakota is edged out by Wisconsin and Minnesota.

According to NiceRx’s report, Wisconsin filed 1.01 payouts per 10,000 residents in the past decade, due in part to a statute of limitations of three years to make a malpractice claim. Minnesota placed second with 1.15 payouts per 10,000 residents with a four-year limitation while North Dakota came in third with 1.32 payouts per 10,000 residents.

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New York and Georgia reported the highest number of payouts at 19.03 and 8.06 payouts per 10,000 residents, respectively.

The cost of malpractice settlements

The cost of settling malpractice claims varies significantly from place to place, as some state legislatures have codified certain policies that can lead to higher or lower payouts.

In North Dakota, the malpractice payouts from 2012 to 2022 averaged roughly $273,600, which ranked 11th-lowest across all states.

In 1995, North Dakota legislators implemented a $500,000 non-economic damages cap for medical malpractice cases, limiting payouts for emotional distress, disability, loss of life or loss of enjoyment. The law stood for more than two decades before a judge declared the cap unconstitutional in 2018, claiming it was an arbitrary limitation of a jury’s ability to determine a plaintiff’s damage.

Though the NPDB statistics don’t separate economic and non-economic amounts within total payouts, 13 payouts amounting over $500,000 have been disbursed in the past decade in North Dakota.

The nearly $27.4 million disbursed by North Dakota health systems is significantly higher than top-ranked Maryland, who paid out $1,008,002 in the past decade, for an average payout of roughly $350 per claim. New York health systems paid out the most, issuing more than $6.8 billion across nearly 16,000 claims.

In total, the health systems throughout the United States paid out just shy of $40 billion across more than 119,000 cases.

Fully encapsulating data for each state can be found on the NPDB’s website.

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The North Dakota Board of Medicine did not respond to a request for comment.

A South Dakota native, Hunter joined Forum Communications Company as a reporter for the Mitchell (S.D.) Republic in June 2021. After over a year in Mitchell, he moved to Milwaukee, where he now works as a digital reporter for Forum News Service, focusing on regional news that impacts the Dakotas, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
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