Non-Economic Damages in Medical Malpractice Appeals: Does the Jurisdiction Make a Difference?

30 Pages Posted: 16 Jul 2012 Last revised: 15 Jan 2014

See all articles by Sofia Amaral-Garcia

Sofia Amaral-Garcia

Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB)

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Date Written: January 14, 2014


This article assesses predictors of payouts and non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases decided by the Spanish Supreme Court from 2006 until 2010. Medical malpractice cases can be judged in administrative or civil courts, and this distinction heavily relies on the type of hospital where the medical accident took place (in general terms, administrative courts judge cases involving public hospitals and civil courts judge cases involving private hospitals). I find that cases decided by the Administrative Section of the Supreme Court are not more likely to receive damages than cases decided by the Civil Section. The probability of receiving compensation is significantly higher among cases involving permanent major/grave injuries.

With respect to non-economic compensation amounts, there are no significant differences between Administrative and Civil cases. This result is confirmed by matching estimation and simulation exercises. There is evidence of vertical inequality according to the level of harm: cases involving permanent grave injuries are those receiving the highest non-economic damages, followed by permanent major, death, permanent minor and temporary /emotional cases. Moreover, the use of scheduled damage tables to quantify damages is associated with higher payouts.

Keywords: medical malpractice, non-economic damages, scheduled damages, Supreme Court, Spain, administrative and civil jurisdictions, litigation

JEL Classification: K13, K32, K41

Suggested Citation

Amaral-Garcia, Sofia, Non-Economic Damages in Medical Malpractice Appeals: Does the Jurisdiction Make a Difference? (January 14, 2014). 7th Annual Conference on Empirical Legal Studies Paper, Available at SSRN: or

Sofia Amaral-Garcia (Contact Author)

Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) ( email )

CP 132 Av FD Roosevelt 50
Brussels, Brussels 1050

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