Supreme Court Issues Peremptory Order Reversing Court of Appeals Opinion Admitting Expert Opinion Without Supporting Literature in Medical Malpractice Case

This peremptory order issued by the Michigan Supreme Court on September 25, 2013, reverses the Court of Appeals opinion in Tondreau ex rel Estate of Peetz v. Sachinders S. Hans, M.D., P.C.coa.opn.

In this medical malpractice case plaintiff alleged malpractice against the defendants and claimed a procedure “a carotid endarterectomy” was the cause of “chronic subdural hematoma” suffered by the decedent.   Decedent’s estate filed suit and sought to admit testimony of two expert witnesses under Michigan Rule of Evidence 702.  The experts testified that the procedure performed by the defendants caused the injury that lead to decedent’ s death.

Defendants objected to the admission of this on the basis that the expert opinion testimony as to this theory of injury was nowhere supported by expert literature on the subject or any other supporting information among the medical community – there were no studies or literature that directly stated this could happen as a result of the procedure performed.  The Court of Appeals ruled the absence of a specific study did not render the expert’s opinion lacking in reliability and therefore inadmissible.  See Slip Op. at 5.

The Supreme Court reversed, ordering the case back to the trial court to sustain the objection and exclude the supporting evidence.  In its order, the Court clearly states “[w]hile peer-reviewed, published literature is not always necessary to meet the requirements of [Michigan Rule of Evidence] 702, in this case the lack of supporting literature, combined with the lack of any other form of support for these opinions render the opinions unreliable and inadmissible under MRE 702.  Edry v. Adelman, 486 Mich. 634, 641 (2010).”

This order provides guidance for practitioners considering the reliability and admissibility of expert testimony in future cases.  A final Supreme Court disposition of an application and that contains a concise statement of the applicable facts and reasons for the decision is binding precedent.  Mich Const 1963, Art 6, § 6; See also Dykes v. William Beaumont Hosp., 246 Mich. App. 471, 483-484 (2001), citing People v. Crall, 444 Mich. 463, 464, n. 8 (1993).  Reiterated more recently in DeFrain v. State Farm Mut. Auto Ins. Co., 491 Mich. 359 (2012).  This order certainly meets that requirement.  Read it here: Tondreau v. Sachinder S. Hans, M.D., P.C.Order.09.25.2013.

For more information about this and other similar cases contact Carson J. Tucker, Chair of the Appeals and Legal Research Group at Lacey & Jones, LLP, a Birmingham law firm serving clients since 1912.  Mr. Tucker can be reached at (248) 283-0763.

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