Introduction: The causes and outcomes of medicolegal claims following laparoscopic cholecystectomy were evaluated.
Subjects and methods: A retrospective analysis of the experience of a consultant surgeon acting as an expert witness within the UK and Ireland (1990-2007).
Results: A total of 151 claims were referred for an opinion. Sixty-three related to bile duct injuries and four followed major vascular injury. Bowel injury resulted in 17 claims. A postoperative biliary leak not associated with a bile duct injury was responsible for 25 claims. Other reasons for claims included spilled gallstones, port-site herniae, haemorrhage and other recognised complications associated with laparoscopic cholecystectomy. Twelve of the claims are on-going, two went to trial, 79 (52%) were settled out of court and 58 (38%) were discontinued after the claimants were advised that they were unlikely to win their case. Disclosed settlement amounts are reported.
Conclusions: Bile duct and major vascular injuries are almost indefensible. The delay in diagnosis and (mis)management of other recognised complications following laparoscopic cholecystectomy have also led to a significant number of successful medicolegal claims.