It’s Story Time: Unlocking the Learnings in Malpractice Settlements




Risk managers and the insurers with whom we work have the greatest opportunity in healthcare today to improve patient safety. Our most egregious mistakes become medical malpractice claims and lawsuits. Some of these go to trial where the outcome is public; however, the least defensible cases are settled without a trial. Almost every settlement includes a confidentiality or nondisclosure clause (NDC). Such clauses become “gag orders.” Providers who could learn from the mistake of a colleague do not, and the same mistake is repeated, often many times over.

The stories of these settlements are a rich source of learning, and it’s time to tell them—anonymously. No naming names, no disclosure of settlement amounts, no “blame and shame.” Stories are powerful, attention-grabbing, and memorable. Telling them is a unique opportunity to link the prevention of patient harm to the healing mission of healthcare and acknowledge the common wish of every plaintiff that “this won’t happen to someone else.”

Author Biographies

Charles A. Pilcher, MD, EvergreenHealth

Charles Pilcher ( is a retired emergency physician and emergency department medical director. He currently serves on the EvergreenHealth governing board in Kirkland, Washington, and chairs its Board Quality and Safety Committee. He has served as a medical-legal consultant in malpractice cases throughout his career and is the editor/publisher of a free, opt-in, monthly newsletter, Medical Malpractice Insights – Learning From Lawsuits. Opinions expressed in this viewpoint article are his own and do not represent those of EvergreenHealth.

Mark L. Graber, MD, Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine

Mark Graber is a retired nephrologist and professor emeritus at Stony Brook University, New York. With Ilene Corina, he is the co-founder of Patient Safety Awareness Week. He is the founder and president emeritus of the Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine and co-founder of the Diagnostic Error in Medicine conference series and the journal Diagnosis). He is the 2014 recipient of the John M. Eisenberg Award for Individual Achievement in advancing patient safety from The Joint Commission and the National Quality Forum.


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How to Cite

Pilcher, C., & Graber, M. L. (2022). It’s Story Time: Unlocking the Learnings in Malpractice Settlements. Patient Safety, 4(3), 16–19.
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