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Detroit Medical Malpractice Law Blog

What are the qualification requirements for expert witnesses?

  • 25
  • March
    2015

In our last post, we spoke a bit about the role of judges in determining the qualifications of expert witnesses and the reliability of their testimony. In this post, we wanted to take a brief look at what state law has to say about these qualifications.

The first issue addressed by state law is the qualifications for an expert witness to be able to offer an opinion on the correct standard of care in the case, whether in favor of or against the provider accused of negligence. As a general matter, experts who testify on the appropriate standard of care must be licensed health professional in either Michigan or another state. Further, experts must have specialized in the same specialty as the provider accused of negligence as of the time of the alleged negligence. 

The role of the judge in expert witness testimony

  • 17
  • March
    2015

In our last couple posts, we explored the issue of cerebral palsy and the question of causation. As we noted, causation is an important issue in medical malpractice litigation, and one which is often disputed. Because of the importance of determining the cause of medical injuries in medical malpractice litigation, expert testimony plays a critical role.

One thing that should be clear is that it is not the function of judges handling medical malpractice lawsuits to weigh in on the issue of causation, as this requires specialized training and knowledge. As a recent Michigan appeal decision made clear, judges are not to voice opinions on scientific and medical issues in medical malpractice litigation, but to play a gatekeeping function with regard to expert testimony.                       

Cerebral palsy and the issue of causation, P.2

  • 12
  • March
    2015

In our last post, we began discussing a recent study suggesting that, at least in some cases, cerebral palsy may be rooted in a genetic mutation rather than a mishap during the birth process. As we noted, the findings could potentially have an impact on the issue of causation in birth injury litigation.

The principle of causation in medical malpractice litigation is aimed at ensuring that the alleged acts of negligence are a sufficiently connected cause of the alleged injuries. In cases where negligence is established but it cannot be established that the negligence was the legal cause of the injuries, no recovery is possible. 

Cerebral palsy and the issue of causation

  • 04
  • March
    2015

According to a recent study published in an online journal by the name of Molecular Psychiatry, a small but significant percentage of cases of cerebral palsy may stem from genetic mutations rather than mishaps during birth. The study specifically found that out of 183 cases of cerebral palsy, one in seven individuals had a gene variant which could have caused the condition.

The bottom line of the study is that at least some cases of cerebral palsy may be rooted in genetics rather than other factors, and this finding confirms previous research showing that there is a significantly greater risk of cerebral palsy for those who have a relative with a developmental disability. 

What legal remedies are available for medical neglect in prison?

  • 23
  • February
    2015

In our last post, we began speaking about the issue of medical care in prison and fact that prisoners do have the right to adequate medical care. Here, we want to take a brief look at the legal remedies that are available to prisoners who have been denied such care.

At the state level, prisoners may be able to enforce their constitutional rights by filing an action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. One of the advantages of suing under this statute is that a plaintiff is able to avoid any state limitations on medical malpractice caps. Here in Michigan, noneconomic damages are capped in medical malpractice cases, but pursuing a section 1983 action would allow a plaintiff to avoid the cap. Other advantages include the availability of attorney’s fees and a potentially longer statute of limitations.

Inmates and the right to adequate medical care

  • 18
  • February
    2015

Medical care is obviously a critical resource which all of us rely on throughout our lives, for ourselves and for our family members, so much so that basic medical care could arguably be considered a human right. In any case, basic medical care is at least a constitutional right guaranteed by the Eighth Amendment. This right is applicable whether or not the medical care is provided directly by employees of the government or by medical staff contracting with the government.

From the perspective of constitutional law, medical neglect of a prisoner must meet a certain threshold before it can be considered a constitutional violation. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, prison officials must specifically display “deliberate indifference” to a prisoner’s “serious medical needs.” 

Determining best way to respond to medical negligence not always easy

  • 09
  • February
    2015

In our previous post, we continued our discussion on the University of Michigan Health System’s approach to patient safety and handling of medical error. As we noted last time, this approach is characterized, among other things, by efforts to increase communication between physicians and patients when errors occur and by a commitment to resolving disputes out of court where possible.

It is worth pointing out that many people injured by health care professionals do not have the benefit of prompt and clear communication of those errors. In many cases, patients only learn the truth about medical errors after they have already become so frustrated about the situation that they are convinced of the need to litigate. Patients, of course, can and should be proactive in communicating their concerns and needs to their physician, but the brunt of the responsibility with communicating errors falls on the physician. 

What can medical malpractice plaintiffs learn from the Michigan Model? P.2

  • 02
  • February
    2015

In our previous post, we began discussing the so-called Michigan Model, or the approach to patient safety and physician accountability that has been in place at the University of Michigan Health System since 2001. The Michigan Model has gained attention because of the improvements it has made in terms of reducing the medical malpractice claims, plaintiff payouts, malpractice costs, and resolution time.

The success of the program, to be sure, is attributable to multiple factors, including the fact that Michigan state law requires a six-month cooling off period before malpractice litigation may proceed, which allows greater opportunity for out-of-court resolution of claims. Another factor is that all physicians in the health system are insured against malpractice claims by the system itself, which allows for greater control over the cost of malpractice insurance. 

What can medical malpractice plaintiffs learn from the Michigan Model?

  • 28
  • January
    2015

Medical malpractice, as Michigan readers know, plays an important role in helping injured patients and the survivors of deceased patients recover damages from losses stemming from provider negligence. The ability to pursue litigation is something patients should have greater awareness of and appreciation for, since litigation offers the opportunity to hold a potentially dangerous physician accountable.

That having been said, medical malpractice litigation is not always the most effective way resolve disputes between providers and their patients. Medical malpractice litigation is often costly and time-consuming, and because of this many injured patients who have strong claims end up not pursuing litigation.

Study looks at medication errors among the young

  • 23
  • January
    2015

Medication errors are not an uncommon occurrence in the health care world. Those who are most at risk for these errors, not surprisingly, are the young and the elderly.

According to a recent study published in the journal Pediatrics, an average of 63,358 medication errors take place for children less than six years of age every year. Of those errors, around one-quarter occur in children less than 12 months of age. The study also noted that there are over 200,000 medication errors reported to U.S. poison control centers every year, and almost one-third of these are for children less than 6 years old. 

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