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Medical Malpractice, Legal Malpractice, Clergy Malpractice

The breach by a member of a profession of either a standard of care or a standard of conduct.

Malpractice refers to NEGLIGENCE or misconduct by a professional person, such as a lawyer, a doctor, a dentist, or an accountant. The failure to meet a standard of care or standard of conduct that is recognized by a profession reaches the level of malpractice when a client or patient is injured or damaged because of error.

After the 1970s the number of malpractice suits filed against professionals greatly increased. Most malpractice suits involved doctors, especially surgeons and other specialists who performed medical procedures with a high degree of risk to their patients. Large damage awards against doctors resulted in higher malpractice insurance costs. Similarly, the increase of malpractice awards against lawyers led to higher insurance premiums and caused some insurance companies to stop writing malpractice policies altogether.

The typical malpractice suit will allege the TORT of negligence by the professional. Negligence is conduct that falls below the legally established standard for the protection of others against unreasonable risk of harm. Under negligence law a person must violate a reasonable standard of care. Typically this has meant the customary or usual practice of members of the profession. For example, if a surgeon leaves a sponge or surgical tool inside a patient, the surgeon's carelessness violates a basic standard of care. Likewise, if an attorney fails to file a lawsuit for a client within the time limits required by law, the attorney may be charged with negligence.


Mallen, Ronald E., and Jeffrey M. Smith. 1996. Legal Malpractice. 4th ed. St. Paul, Minn.: West.

Rosenblum, James. 1993. Malpractice Solutions. Knoxville, Tenn: Whittle Direct Books.

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