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Detroit Medical Malpractice Law Blog

Rules of evidence and physician statements of fault

In our last post, we looked very briefly at a Michigan law which protects sympathetic physician communications from being used in court. Such statements are not necessarily going to be necessary to necessary to prove medical negligence, though, and the law does not protect physician admissions of fault or negligence from being used against them in medical malpractice litigation.

Evidentiary issues in medical malpractice cases are governed by established rules of evidence. These rules dictate what type of evidence may be admitted in court and what types may not be admitted. Physician admissions of fault could potentially be admitted under various evidentiary classifications. 

Physician admissions of guilt in medical malpractice litigation

Last time, we mentioned that Michigan is among a group of state that have passed measures to protect physicians from having their apologies used against them in medical malpractice litigation. In this post, we wanted to say a bit more about this law and how it can affect an injured patient’s ability to build a strong case for negligence.

The core protection of the law is that certain types of physician communications to a patient are not admissible in order to prove liability. Specifically, the following types of communication are, under the law, not considered admissions of liability: statements, writings, or actions made to a patient or his or her family which express sympathy, compassion, commiseration, or benevolence regarding the patient’s pain, suffer, or death. 

Med mal litigation not automatic, but patients shouldn’t sell themselves short

A recent CNN article took a look at what is becoming an increasingly important issue in the medical profession—the power of physician apologies when mistakes have been made. It has been known for some time that adding a touch of transparency and sincerity can go a long way in managing medical malpractice litigation, and 36 states currently have laws promoting physician apologies.

Michigan is among the states which have passed measures which prevent physician apologies from being used in court. Such measures are, of course, for the benefit of patients, but it has also been shown that hospitals can benefit through swifter resolution of cases. The key, according to proponents, is that patients are less likely to become litigious when they feel a physician is being honest with them.

Regulating the medical profession: malpractice litigation and physician discipline, P.2

In our previous post, we began looking at medical malpractice as one important form of regulation of the medical industry. Malpractice litigation provides regulation of the medical profession through—or with reference to—the court system, even when cases settle outside the adversarial process.

While it is important for injured patients to understand their options when it comes to medical malpractice litigation, it is also important to understand that medical malpractice is often a costly and time-consuming undertaking, and that the potential payoff may not be worth the investment. In cases where it is not, however, an injured patient can still help bring about some justice and obtain some closure by contributing to the physician discipline process.

Regulating the medical profession: malpractice litigation and physician discipline, P.1

The medical profession is a highly regulated one, and for good reasons. Licensed physicians bear a major responsibility to their patients, and regulation and oversight helps ensure—or, at least, is supposed to—that the individuals in the profession are deemed to be generally competent and trustworthy.

Two important ways medical professionals are regulated is through licensing and tort litigation. Medical malpractice litigation, of course, is a cause of action in which a patient claims that a licensed physician breached an established duty of care and thereby caused harm to the patient. In order to successfully pursue a medical malpractice claim, a patient must be able to present relevant and reliable evidence defining the specific standard of care, the breach of that standard of care, and which demonstrates a sufficient causal link between that breach and the harm done to the patient.

Looking at the basics of the medical malpractice statute of limitations

Pursuing a medical malpractice claim is generally a large undertaking involving a lot of leg work and a lot of coordination. Not only are there evidentiary and legal issues that need to be fully explored and considered, there are procedural and technical issues that have to be dealt with and coordinated as well.

One important element of this coordination is to ensure that a medical malpractice claim is filed before the statute of limitations runs. As we pointed out in our last post, there are some disagreements on exactly how state law should be applied in certain circumstances, but the basics are laid out fairly clearly. 

Family able to pursue malpractice case after appeal on statute of limitations issue

Earlier this month, a Michigan Appeals Court ruled that the family of a deceased man who had a surgical sponge left inside of his body, near his heart, for eight years, is able to sue the doctor and the hospital where the surgery occurred.

The man apparently had surgery at Covenant HealthCare in Saginaw in 2003, and sued the hospital in 2012, after the sponge was found. The suit was dismissed on the grounds that the statute of limitations had already run, though the attorney representing his family—he died in 2015—argued that the statute of limitations did not apply in the case.

Maximizing your medical malpractice award: work with experienced attorney, P.2

In our last post, we mentioned a recent medical malpractice case initiated by a Jackson woman who won a $1.3 million award which was deemed excessive by the physician she sued. As we noted, $500,000 of the award was for pain, suffering, scarring and disfigurement, as well as mental/emotional distress, all of which are considered non-economic damages.

As we noted last time, the ordinary cap on noneconomic damages in Michigan is $500,000 when the exceptions mentioned last time apply. Another exception is cases where a plaintiff has suffered permanent loss of or damage to a reproductive organ resulting in the inability to procreate.  

Maximizing your medical malpractice award: work with experienced attorney, P.1

A 43-year-old Jackson woman who underwent an abdominoplasty—more commonly known as a  “tummy tuck”—was recently awarded $1.3 million by a jury in a medical malpractice case in compensation for serious complications which left her with permanent impairment.  

The breakdown of the award is as follows: $500,000 of the award was for pain, suffering, scarring and disfigurement, and mental/emotional distress; $382,000 was for loss of income; and an additional $430,000 was for loss of income through 2017. The award has been called “excessive” by the defendant physician’s attorney, but the attorney representing the injured woman said the award was appropriate given the facts of the case. 

Medical error resolution programs: is their success enough to stem tide?

A recent article on Healthline looked at a resolution program at Stanford University aiming to promote more effective resolution of instances of medical error. The program, which involves the whole Stanford Healthcare system, utilizes two separate resolution tracks for patients and their families. The first is the health system’s so-called indemnity program, which provides compensation for recognized medical errors.

The other track is a resolution program which seeks to prevent cases involving smaller complications from escalating. This track provides patient compensation of no more than $5,000. Once a file is opened in this track, an internal evaluation is conducted and this is sent to an independent outside medical expert. Discrepancies will trigger further investigation. The health system provides contacts of patients to navigate the process.