Japanese Judicial Reform in Arithmetic Results

Source: Supreme Court of Japan

The above data shows the percentage of cases ruled in the plaintiff’s (patient’s) favor and the length of total proceedings before the District Courts on fully litigated medical malpractice cases. As promised by the Supreme Court in 2002, acceleration of civil cases was given a priority, and, as shown above, the average months declined by almost 30 percent from 1999 to 2018.

Interestingly, however, the plaintiff’s win rate declined by 39 percent in the same period. Moreover, during the 19 year interval, these values moved in the same upward or downward direction in 13 years (mostly downward, needless to say), and their correlation is apparent. The question is causation. There may various causes for the phenomenon, improvement of medical care for instance.

But it is a textbook principle that the plaintiff bears the burden of proof, and although the burden of proof is shifted to the defendant in the medical malpractice cases, disparity of information cannot be ignored. One such prime example is the discovery of erroneous DNA analysis in previous criminal cases, which cautions against relying too heavily on presentations of the party who has natural access to a greater amount of information.