Justia Michigan Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Medical Malpractice
Trowell v. Providence Hospital & Medical Centers, Inc.
Audrey Trowell filed an action against Providence Hospital and Medical Centers, Inc., after she sustained injuries while she was hospitalized. At issue in this case was whether plaintiff’s claims sounded in medical malpractice or ordinary negligence. If her claims implicated medical malpractice, then they were barred by the two-year statute of limitations applicable to medical malpractice actions and defendant was entitled to summary judgment under MCR 2.116(C)(7). If her claims sounded in ordinary negligence, then they were timely. The Court of Appeals couldn't tell based solely on the basis of the allegations in the complaint, so it remanded for an evidentiary hearing to determine whether plaintiff’s claims were in medical malpractice, ordinary negligence, or both. The Michigan Supreme Court disagreed with this approach, holding that under the facts of this case, in which the only material submitted to the trial court was plaintiff’s complaint, the remand was improper and in determining the nature of plaintiff’s claims, the lower courts’ review was limited to the complaint alone. A proper review of the allegations in plaintiff’s complaint lead the Supreme Court to conclude that although the complaint included some claims of medical malpractice, it also contains one claim of ordinary negligence. The case was remanded to proceed on the ordinary negligence claims. View "Trowell v. Providence Hospital & Medical Centers, Inc." on Justia Law
Haksluoto v. Mt. Clemens Regional Med. Ctr.
Jeffrey and Carol Haksluoto filed a medical malpractice claim against Mt. Clemens Regional Medical Center, General Radiology Associates, PC, and Eli Shapiro, DO, for injuries Jeffrey sustained after he was misdiagnosed in Mt. Clemens’s emergency room. Plaintiffs mailed a notice of intent (NOI) to file a claim on December 26, 2013, the final day of the two-year statutory period of limitations. Plaintiffs filed their complaint on June 27, 2014, which was 183 days after service of the NOI. Defendants moved for summary judgment, arguing that the suit was barred by the two-year statute of limitations. The trial court denied defendants’ motion. Defendants appealed, and the Court of Appeals reversed, holding that MCR 1.108 (the rule concerning the calculation of time) was best understood to signify that the 182-day notice period began on December 27, 2013 (the day after plaintiffs served the NOI) and expired on June 26, 2014, which meant that the notice period did not commence until one day after the limitations period had expired, and therefore filing the NOI on the last day of the limitations period failed to toll the statute of limitations. The Michigan Supreme Court granted plaintiffs’ application for review, finding the trial court was correct in its calculation of time. View "Haksluoto v. Mt. Clemens Regional Med. Ctr." on Justia Law
Rock v. Crocker
In September 2008, plaintiff Dustin Rock fractured his right ankle while changing the brake pads on a truck. Defendant K. Thomas Crocker, D.O., a board-certified orthopedic surgeon, conducted surgery and provided postsurgical care. In October 2008, defendant allegedly told plaintiff that he could start bearing weight on his leg, though plaintiff did not start doing so at the time. In November 2008, another doctor, Dr. David Viviano, performed a second surgery on plaintiff’s ankle, purportedly because the surgery performed by defendant had failed to unite all the pieces of the fracture. At the time of the surgery performed by defendant, Viviano was a board-certified orthopedic surgeon. In June 2010, plaintiff filed this lawsuit, alleging that defendant had committed 10 specific negligent acts during the first surgery and over the course of postsurgical care. The issues this case presented for the Michigan Supreme Court's review involved: (1) the admissibility of allegations of breaches of the standard of care that did not cause the plaintiff’s injury; and (2) the time at which a standard-of-care expert witness must meet the board-certification requirement in MCL 600.2169(1)(a). First, the Supreme Court vacated that portion of the Court of Appeals’ judgment ruling on the admissibility of the allegations in this case and remanded for the circuit court to determine whether the disputed evidence was admissible under MRE 404(b). Second, the Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals’ conclusion that a proposed expert’s board-certification qualification was based on the expert’s board-certification status at the time of the alleged malpractice rather than at the time of the testimony. View "Rock v. Crocker" on Justia Law
Ehler v. Mirsa
In this medical malpractice case, the issue on appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court was whether the circuit court abused its discretion by excluding plaintiff’s expert medical testimony under MRE 702. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of defendants after excluding the opinion testimony of plaintiff’s expert, concluding that it was inadmissible because it was not reliable and did not meet the requirements of MCL 600.2955. The Court of Appeals, in a split opinion, reversed the circuit court and remanded, concluding that the circuit court incorrectly applied MRE 702 and abused its discretion by excluding the expert's testimony. The expert admitted that his opinion was based on his own personal beliefs. The Supreme Court found there was no evidence that the expert's opinion was generally accepted within the relevant expert community, there was no peer-reviewed medical literature supporting his opinion, plaintiff failed to provide any other support for the expert's opinion, and defendant submitted contradictory, peer-reviewed medical literature. As such, the Court concluded the circuit court did not abuse its discretion by excluding the expert's testimony. The Court of Appeals clearly erred by concluding otherwise. View "Ehler v. Mirsa" on Justia Law
Tyra v. Organ Procurement Agency of Michigan
In 2007, plaintiff Lisa Tyra received a kidney transplant at defendant William Beaumont Hospital, with a kidney made available by defendant Organ Procurement Agency of Michigan. Plaintiff allegedly suffered complications because the kidney did not constitute a proper match, and she filed suit asserting defendants should have identified this fact before the surgery. When plaintiff filed her complaint, the 182-day notice period set forth in MCL 600.2912b(1) had not yet expired. Organ Procurement moved for summary disposition on the basis that plaintiff’s complaint was filed prematurely, and the period of limitations had since expired. The hospital and Dr. Steven Cohn, the transplant surgeon, joined the motion and the trial court later granted the motion. The trial court reasoned that, under "Burton v Reed City Hosp Corp," (691 NW2d 424 (2005)), the prematurely filed complaint failed to toll the running of the period of limitations and plaintiff could not cure the error by refiling the complaint. The legal issue before the Supreme Court in this case was whether the controlling caselaw authority governing this case, "Zwiers v Growney," (778 NW2d 81 (2009)), was overruled by the Michigan Supreme Court in "Driver v Naini," (802 NW2d 311 (2011)). The Court of Appeals held that Zwiers was not overruled in Driver. Because the Supreme Court concluded to the contrary, it reversed the judgment of the Court of Appeals in part in both "Tyra v Organ Procurement Agency of Mich," (850 NW2d 667 (2013)), and "Furr v McLeod," (848 NW2d 465 (2014)). In "Tyra," the Court reinstated the trial court’s order granting defendants’ motion for summary disposition, and in "Furr," the Court remanded the case back to the trial court for entry of an order granting defendants’ motion for summary disposition. View "Tyra v. Organ Procurement Agency of Michigan" on Justia Law
Krusac v. Covenant Medical Center, Inc.
John Krusac, as personal representative of the estate of Dorothy Krusac, brought a medical malpractice action against Covenant Medical Center, Inc., alleging that Dorothy Krusac died as a result of injuries she sustained when she rolled off an operating table following a cardiac catheterization procedure. During discovery, it became known that one of the medical staff present during the procedure had filled out an incident report shortly after the event and submitted it to her supervisor. Plaintiff filed a motion in limine on the eve of trial, asking the court to conduct an in camera inspection of the incident report and provide plaintiff with the facts contained in it. On plaintiff’s motion for reconsideration, however, the court reviewed the report in camera and subsequently ordered defendant to provide plaintiff with a portion of the incident report that contained only objective facts in light of "Harrison v Munson Healthcare, Inc," (304 Mich App 1 (2014)), which held that the peer-review privilege did not apply to objective facts contained in an incident report. Defendant sought leave to appeal the order in the Court of Appeals and moved to stay the proceedings, both of which motions the Court of Appeals denied. After its review, the Supreme Court held that the applicable statutory authority that governed this case did not contain an exception to the peer review privilege for objective facts. As a result, that portion of "Harrison" was wrongly decided. Here, the trial court erred by relying on Harrison to order production of the objective-facts portion of the incident report. Therefore, the Supreme Court vacated the trial court’s order and remanded for further proceedings. View "Krusac v. Covenant Medical Center, Inc." on Justia Law
Johnson v. Pastoriza
Plaintiff-Appellee Candice Johnson suffered a lost pregnancy at 20 weeks’ gestation, and on behalf of herself and the deceased fetus, Baby Johnson, sued Defendant-Appellant Rajan Pastoriza, M.D. and his professional corporation alleging negligence. Defendant moved for summary judgment; the circuit court refused to grant the motion, but ordered Plaintiff to appoint a personal representative for the estate of the baby and to amend the complaint to bring the negligence claim that had been brought on behalf of the baby through Michigan's wrongful-death statute. Defendant appealed. The appellate court held that the wrongful-death statute as amended in 2005, applied retroactively to Plaintiff's claim for wrongful death. Upon review, the Supreme Court held that the 2005 amendment to the wrongful-death statute did not apply to claims arising before the effective date of the amendment. Further, because Defendant would be subjected to liability that did not exist at the time the cause of action arose, the amendment was not remedial, and therefore could not be deemed retroactive. The case was remanded to the circuit court for entry of summary judgment in favor of Denfendant on the wrongful-death claim.View "Johnson v. Pastoriza" on Justia Law
Velez v. Tuma
In this joint and several liability medical malpractice case, Defendant Dr. Martin Tuma sought a reduction of the final judgment rendered against him by the amount of his codefendants' settlement. The issue before the Supreme Court concerned the common-law "setoff rule," whereby a jointly and severally liable tortfeasor is entitled to a setoff from any adverse verdict in the amount of the cotortfeasor's settlement, and the noneconomic damages cap of MCL 600.1483, which limits a medical malpractice plaintiff's recovery of noneconomic damages. Both the circuit court and Court of Appeals held pursuant to "Markley v Oak Health Care Investors of Coldwater, Inc." that the common-law setoff rule applied and that the setoff must be applied to the jury's verdict before application of the cap on noneconomic damages. Upon review, the Supreme Court agreed with the lower courts that "Markley" was correctly decided and thus held that the Legislature did not abolish the common-law setoff rule in the context of joint and several liability medical malpractice cases. "[The Court affirmed] the Court of Appeals in this regard and further clarif[ed] that where the Legislature has retained principles of joint and several liability, the common-law setoff rule applie[d]. The lower courts' sequencing of the setoff and the noneconomic damages cap, however, result[ed]in an outcome contrary to the Legislature's requirement that medical malpractice plaintiffs 'shall not' recover more noneconomic losses than the amount determined by MCL 600.1483. . . . Because application of the setoff to the jury's verdict can result in a recovery beyond those statutorily mandated damages limitations," the Court held further that a joint tortfeasor's settlement must be set off from the final judgment after application of the noneconomic damages cap of MCL 600.1483, as well as the collateral source rule. View "Velez v. Tuma" on Justia Law
Driver v. Naini
In this medical malpractice action, the issue before the Supreme Court pertained to whether Plaintiffs Willie and Beverly Driver were entitled to amend their original notice of intent (NOI) when adding a nonparty defendant to their pending litigation in order that the NOI related back to the original filing for purposes of tolling the statute of limitations. Upon review of the NOI at issue and the Court's decision in "Bush v. Shabahang," the Supreme Court held that a plaintiff is not entitled to amend an original NOI to add nonparty defendants so that the amended NOI relates back to the original filing. The Court affirmed the result reached by the Court of Appeals on this issue, and reversed the case in all other aspects. View "Driver v. Naini " on Justia Law
Ligons v. Crittenton Hospital
Edris Ligons underwent a colonoscopy. Four days later, she developed vomiting, diarrhea, chills and fever. She was admitted to the emergency room at Defendant Crittenton Hospital. Ms. Ligons refused to be admitted to the hospital. The hospital discharged her after giving her antibiotics, treating her for dehydration and giving her instructions to follow up with her treating physician the next day. Tests and exploratory surgery would reveal that Ms. Ligons suffered from a perforated colon, inflamed pelvic mass and an abscess. She had advanced liver failure brought in part by 30 years of alcoholism. Removal of the colon was impossible due to Ms. Ligons' preexisting conditions. Ms. Ligons never recovered from the surgery and died in early 2002. Plaintiff was the personal representative of Ms. Ligons' estate. He delivered a notice of intent (NOI) to sue to the Hospital and the doctors involved ("Defendants"). Plaintiff delivered a supplemental NOI providing more detail regarding proximate cause. Plaintiff then filed suit accompanied by two affidavits of merit (AOM). Defendants moved to dismiss, arguing that the NOIs and AOM did not comply with the governing statutes. The trial court denied Defendant's motions, and the Court of Appeals found that the AOMs were insufficient. Upon review, the Supreme Court found that the AOMs at issue in this case were filed after both the limitations and saving periods had expired. The Court held in such cases, dismissal with prejudice must follow because "allowing amendment of the deficient AOM would directly conflict with the statutory scheme governing medical malpractice actions, the clear language of the court rules and precedent of this Court." The Court affirmed the judgment of the Court of Appeals which dismissed Plaintiff's case with prejudice. View "Ligons v. Crittenton Hospital" on Justia Law