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BACKGROUND: Medico-legal data show opportunities to improve safe medical care; little is published on the experience of physicians-in-training with medical malpractice. The purpose of this study was to examine closed civil legal cases involving physicians-in-training over time and provide novel insights on case and physicians characteristics. METHODS: We conducted a retrospective descriptive study of closed civil legal cases at the Canadian Medical Protective Association (CMPA), a mutual medico-legal defence organization for more than 105 000 physicians, representing an estimated 95% of physicians in Canada. Eligible cases involved at least 1 physician-in-training and were closed between 1993 and 2017 (for time trends) or 2008 and 2017 (for descriptive analyses). We analyzed case rates over time using Poisson regression and the annualized change rate. Descriptive analyses addressed case duration, medico-legal outcome and patient harm. We explored physician specialties and practice characteristics in a subset of cases. RESULTS: Over a 25-year period (1993-2017), 4921 physicians-in-training were named in 2951 closed civil legal cases, and case rates decreased significantly (β = -0.04, 95% confidence interval -0.05 to -0.03, where β was the 1-year difference in log case rates). The annualized change rate was -1.1% per year. Between 2008 and 2017, 1901 (4.1%) of 45 967 physicians-in-training were named in 1107 civil legal cases. Cases with physicians-in-training generally involved more severe patient harm than cases without physicians-in-training. In a subgroup with available information (n = 951), surgical specialties were named most often (n = 531, 55.8%). INTERPRETATION: The rate of civil legal cases involving physicians-in-training has diminished over time, but more recent cases featured severe patient harm and death. Efforts to promote patient safety may enhance medical care and reduce the frequency and severity of malpractice issues for physicians-in-training.