Articles Posted in Michigan Supreme Court

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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