Minnesota Medical Malpractice

Legal Outline

Loss of Chance Claims

Minnesota recognizes claims for “loss of chance.” Dickhoff ex rel. Dickhoff v. Green, 836 N.W.2d 321 (Minn. 2013).

What is a loss-of-chance claim?

A loss of a chance is a form of damage in a medical negligence claim where the patient suffers a decreased likelihood of a positive outcome due to some negligent action by a care provider. In other words, the patient missed an opportunity for improvement or a cure in an underlying medical condition due to a negligent delay, improper treatment, or other form of medical malpractice.

Who has a loss-of-chance claim?

A patient has a potential loss-of-chance claim when a healthcare provider departs from accepted standards of practice and that departure causes a worsening of an underlying condition.

To illustrate: Assume a patient seeks a medical opinion about a concerning spot on her skin. A dermatologist takes a skin sample and sends it in for pathology review. The pathologist determines that the cells are cancerous and notifies the dermatologist. The dermatologist receives the cancerous results but never informs the patient, who was under the impression that “no news is good news.” The cancer grows for a significant amount of time before she returns to the dermatologist, who sees the previous pathology report in her chart and begins cancer treatment, but with a decreased likelihood of success with the cancer’s growth over time.

The patient could bring a claim in Minnesota for her loss-of-chance, which measures the difference between her chance of surviving the illness and what her chance would likely have been with timely diagnosis.