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.

Continuing its tradition of providing highly specialized and unique legal services to an exclusive clientele, Lacey & Jones, LLP, works with insurance companies and businesses to develop comprehensive insurance coverage strategies for all lines of coverage.  From the simplest review (second look) of an in-house counsel’s coverage determination to complete coverage analysis involving high-exposure, multi-party, multi-jurisdiction, multi-claim events, the firm is capable of assisting its clients in making valuable choices and advising them on the proper course of action.  The firm’s coverage counsel and litigation team is also capable of pursuing coverage determinations and indemnity or subrogation in courts by filing declaratory judgment actions or indemnity and subrogation actions, respectively.

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About cjtucker06

Owner of law firm since July 2014; Handles all types of appellate matters and assists other lawyers with complex litigation and insurance coverage issues; Admitted to the Supreme Court of the United States, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals and the State Bar of Michigan; Expertise in prosecuting and defending appeals with several significant successes in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, the Michigan Supreme Court and the Michigan Court of Appeals; Author of briefs amicus curiae in the Michigan Supreme Court for the Michigan Defense Trial Counsel and the Insurance Institute of Michigan; Represents Insurance Companies, Major International Business, Governmental Entities, Law Enforcement Officers and County Sheriffs. Board of Directors, Michigan Defense Trial Counsel Amicus Committee Co-Chair, Michigan Defense Trial Counsel Military - Retired Major in the Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps of the United States Army, Brigade Judge Advocate and Staff JAG officer for the Maneuver Training Center, Camp Grayling, Michigan; Recipient of the Army's Meritorious Service Medal (the highest medal of honor available to Soldiers serving in non-combat roles); 2012 Graduate of the Judge Advocate Officer Advanced Course, at The Judge Advocate Legal Center and School, Charlottesville, Virginia. United States Navy Reserves, Combat Warfare Qualification, January 1989 to July 2003 Former law clerk to Justice Stephen J. Markman, Michigan Supreme Court, Research Attorney, Michigan Court of Appeals. Insurance Coverage Associate Plunkett Cooney; Environmental Law Attorney at Squire Sanders, now Squire Patton Boggs; Master's Degree in Environmental Law; Environmental Law Scholar, ALI/ABA Washington, D.C., Juris Doctorate, Vermont Law School, Environmental Editor, Vermont Law Review; Treasurer and Finalist, Moot Court Advisory Board.
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