Justia Medical Malpractice Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Michigan Supreme Court
Ottgen v. Katranji
Candi Ottgen and her husband brought a medical malpractice action against Abdalmaijid Katranji, M.D., and others, alleging that Katranji had negligently performed two thumb surgeries on her, first on May 1, 2017, the second July 23, 2017. Plaintiffs filed their action on April 11, 2019, focusing their complaint on the first surgery, but they did not attach an affidavit of merit (AOM) to the complaint as required by MCL 600.2912d(1). On May 9, 2019, defendants moved for summary judgment pursuant to Scarsella v. Pollak, 461 Mich 547 (2000), which held that filing a medical malpractice complaint without an AOM was ineffective to commence the action and thereby toll the two-year statutory limitations period. Plaintiffs responded by filing an amended complaint with an AOM that had purportedly been executed on January 30, 2019, but was not attached to the original complaint because of a clerical error. Plaintiffs also separately requested permission to make the late filing and contended that it related back to the original complaint. The trial court held that Scarsella was inapplicable because the AOM was completed when the original complaint was filed and its omission from the filing was inadvertent. The trial court also permitted plaintiffs to file their late AOM and allowed it to relate back to the April 2019 complaint. The Court of Appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding that Scarsella applied and, accordingly, that plaintiffs’ complaint was untimely with regard to the first surgery, rendering the April 2019 complaint ineffective and leaving nothing for the subsequently filed May 13, 2019 amended complaint to relate back to. The Michigan Supreme Court concluded Scarsella was erroneously decided and failed to survive a stare decisis analysis, and it was therefore overruled. "Filing an AOM under MCL 600.2912d(1) is not required to commence a medical malpractice action and toll the statutory limitations period. Instead, the normal tolling rules apply to medical malpractice actions, and tolling occurs upon the filing of a timely served complaint. A failure to comply with MCL 600.2912d(1) can still be a basis for dismissal of a case; however, the dismissal cannot be based on statute-of-limitations grounds." Because the courts below did not consider the nature of dismissals for violations of MCL 600.2912d(1), the case was remanded to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Ottgen v. Katranji" on Justia Law
Kostadinovski v. Harrington
Drago and Blaga Kostadinovski brought a medical malpractice action against Steven Harrington, M.D. and Advanced Cardiothoracic Surgeons, PLLC, asserting six specific theories with respect to how the doctor breached the standard of care throughout the course of Drago’s mitral-valve-repair surgery in December 2011, during which Drago suffered a stroke. Plaintiffs timely served defendants with a notice of intent (NOI) to file suit, timely served the complaint, and timely served the affidavit of merit. Following the close of discovery, defendants moved for summary judgment, arguing that plaintiffs’ experts were unable to validate or support the six theories asserted by plaintiffs in the NOI, affidavit of merit, and complaint. Plaintiffs agreed to the dismissal of their existing, unsupported negligence allegations and complaint but moved to amend the complaint to assert a new theory. The court denied the motion to amend the complaint, reasoning that amendment would be futile given that the existing NOI would be rendered obsolete because it did not include the new theory. Plaintiffs appealed and defendants cross-appealed. The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded to the trial court for it to apply MCL 600.2301 in considering whether plaintiffs should be allowed to amend the NOI. In a footnote to the opinion, the Court of Appeals rejected plaintiffs’ argument that MCL 600.2912b simply required the service of an NOI before suit was filed and that once a compliant and timely NOI is served, as judged at the time suit is filed and by the language in the original complaint, the requirements of the statute have been satisfied. On remand, the trial court denied plaintiffs’ motion to amend, concluding that amendment would be futile and that amending the complaint would contravene MCL 600.2912b. Plaintiffs appealed. In an unpublished per curiam opinion, the Court of Appeals affirmed. The Michigan Supreme Court concluded MCL 600.2912b did not apply where a plaintiff seeks to amend their complaint against an already-named defendant after suit has already commenced. Accordingly, the judgment of the Court of Appeals was reversed and the case remanded for further proceedings. View "Kostadinovski v. Harrington" on Justia Law
Estate of Corrado v. Rieck, et al.
Lesley Meyers, personal representative of the estate of Samuel Corrado, filed an action against Karen Rieck; Radi Gerbi; Shelby Nursing Center Joint Venture, doing business as Shelby Nursing Center; and others alleging that defendants were negligent and had committed medical malpractice in treating Corrado. Corrado, the decedent, was a patient at Shelby Nursing Center, a nursing home, in 2014. The nursing home had a standing order for patients with nausea that directed staff to, among other things, administer an antinausea medication and to notify the patient’s doctor immediately if the patient had more than one episode of vomiting in a 24-hour period. Pursuant to the standing order, Gerbi administered the antinausea medication to Corrado. Gerbi also attempted to call a physician, but when he was unable to reach the physician he went on break instead. Meyers, Corrado’s daughter, called the nursing home to have someone sent to Corrado’s room. When she was unsuccessful, Meyers went to the nursing home herself, where she found Corrado having difficulty breathing. Corrado was taken to the hospital, where he died from hypoxia due to aspiration. During discovery, plaintiff learned of the standing order and moved to amend the complaint to add to its ordinary-negligence claim allegations that Gerbi had failed to comply with the standing order to contact a physician after Corrado’s second vomiting episode. In response, Shelby Nursing Center moved to dismiss the new claim, arguing that the standing order was not evidence of ordinary negligence, could not be used to establish the standard of care in a medical malpractice claim, and could not be admitted as evidence in support of a medical malpractice claim. The trial court granted plaintiff’s motion to amend and denied Shelby Nursing Center’s motion to dismiss. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that plaintiff’s proposed amended claim sounded in medical malpractice, rather than ordinary negligence. The Court of Appeals also concluded that the standing order could not be used to establish the standard of care for a medical malpractice claim and could not be admitted as evidence at trial. The Michigan Supreme Court concluded after review that plaintiff’s proposed amendment sounded in medical malpractice, and the standard of care in a medical malpractice action could not be established by the internal rules and regulations of the defendant medical provider. Those rules and regulations, however, might be admissible as evidence in determining the standard of care, provided that the jury is instructed that they do not constitute the standard of care. View "Estate of Corrado v. Rieck, et al." on Justia Law
Estate of Kelly Bowman v. St. John Hospital & Med. Ctr.
Kelly Bowman and her husband Vernon, brought a medical malpractice suit against St. John Hospital and Medical Center, Ascension Medical Group Michigan, and Tushar Parikh, M.D., alleging that Parikh erroneously advised Kelly Bowman that a growth in her breast was benign, on the basis of his interpretation of a 2013 mammogram. For the next two years, she felt the lump grow and sought follow-up care. In April 2015, she underwent a biopsy, which revealed “invasive ductal carcinoma with lobular features.” In May 2015, she was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer and underwent a double mastectomy, which revealed that the cancer had spread to a lymph node. In August 2016, soon after learning that the cancer had spread to her bone marrow, she sought a second opinion from a specialist and learned that the 2013 mammogram might have been misread. Defendants moved for summary judgment, contending the Bowmans' complaint was untimely under the applicable statute of limitations. The trial court denied the motion, and defendants appealed. The Court of Appeals reversed in a split decision. During the pendency of the proceedings, Kelly Bowman died, and her estate was substituted as plaintiff. The question for the Michigan Supreme Court's opinion was on whether Kelly Bowman "should have discovered the existence of [her claim] over six months before initiating proceedings. The Court answered, "no:" the record did not reveal Kelly Bowman should have known before June 2016 that her delayed diagnosis might have been caused by a misreading of the 2013 mammogram. "the available facts didn’t allow her to infer that causal relationship, and the defendants have not shown that Ms. Bowman wasn’t diligent. The present record does not allow us to conclude, as a matter of law, that Ms. Bowman sued over six months after she discovered or should have discovered the existence of her claim. And so we reverse the Court of Appeals’ judgment and remand to the trial court for further proceedings." View "Estate of Kelly Bowman v. St. John Hospital & Med. Ctr." on Justia Law
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
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
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