Decreased circulating protein C is a marker of a prothrombotic state that has been associated with poor clinical outcomes in sepsis. However, protein C has not been measured in patients with acute lung injury and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ALI/ARDS). In this study, we measured circulating and intra-alveolar concentrations of protein C in 45 patients with ALI/ARDS from septic and nonseptic causes. Plasma protein C levels were lower in ALI/ARDS compared with normal controls. Lower levels of plasma protein C were associated with worse clinical outcomes, including death, fewer ventilator-free days, and more nonpulmonary organ failures, even when only patients without sepsis were analyzed. In summary, the protein C system is markedly disrupted in patients with ALI/ARDS from both septic and nonseptic causes. The protein C system may be a therapeutic target in patients with ALI/ARDS.