The State of Michigan Court of Appeals (“Michigan Appellate Court”) held in its unpublished opinion dated December 13, 2018 that the defendant hospital’s expert was qualified to testify as to standard of care issues in a Michigan medical malpractice case.
The Underlying Facts
On August 7, 2011, the plaintiff fell and fractured his right knee. He went to the defendant hospital and was released with crutches and a knee immobilizer. The plaintiff returned the next day because of increased pain at which time he was admitted under the care of an orthopedic surgeon.
The plaintiff had been taking the blood thinner medication Coumadin because of a suspected right lower leg deep vein thrombosis (DVT). The orthopedic surgeon discontinued the plaintiff’s Coumadin while the surgeon decided whether to perform surgery on the plaintiff’s knee. The orthopedic surgeon ultimately decided not to perform surgery and resumed the plaintiff’s Coumadin, 22 hours after it had been discontinued. The plaintiff was subsequently diagnosed with DVT.
The plaintiff filed his Michigan medical malpractice lawsuit, alleging that the 22-hour Coumadin “hold” caused his DVT. The defendant hospital designated an orthopedic expert to offer standard-of-care testimony. The plaintiff filed a motion in limine to preclude the defendant’s orthopedic expert from testifying as to standard-of-care, arguing that the expert testified during his deposition that he spent the majority of his professional time practicing sports medicine—a subspecialty of general orthopedics—and therefore he was not qualified to offer standard-of-care testimony pertaining to orthopedic surgery. The trial court denied the plaintiff’s motion in limine, and the plaintiff appealed.
MCL 600.2169 governs the criteria for an expert witness in a medical malpractice action and provides, in relevant part:
(1) In an action alleging medical malpractice, a person shall not give expert testimony on the appropriate standard of practice or care unless the person is licensed as a health professional in this state or another state and meets the following criteria:
(a) If the party against whom or on whose behalf the testimony is offered is a specialist, specializes at the time of the occurrence that is the basis for the action in the same specialty as the party against whom or on whose behalf the testimony is offered. However, if the party against whom or on whose behalf the testimony is offered is a specialist who is board-certified, the expert witness must be a specialist who is board-certified in that specialty.
(b) Subject to subdivision (c), during the year immediately preceding the date of the occurrence that is the basis for the claim or action, devoted a majority of his or her professional time to either or both of the following:
(i) The active clinical practice of the same health profession in which the party against whom or on whose behalf the testimony is offered is licensed and, if that party is a specialist, the active clinical practice of that specialty.
The Michigan Appellate Court held that it was appropriate for the trial court to deny the plaintiff’s motion in limine. The trial court had determined that the defendant’s expert “is a Board-certified Orthopedic Surgeon who has devoted the majority of his professional time to the active clinical practice as such.” The Michigan Appellate Court stated that “the trial court had sufficient evidence before it to conclude that [the defendant’s expert] practiced the same specialty as [the orthopedic surgeon]-orthopedic surgery—and so its finding that [the defendant’s expert] spent a majority of his professional time practicing in the specialty of orthopedic surgery in the year preceding the alleged malpractice was within the range of reasonable and principled outcomes … [a]ccordingly, the trial court did not abuse its discretion by finding that [the defendant’s expert] was qualified to give standard-of-care testimony under MCL 600.2169(1).”
Source Turkish v. William Beaumont Hospital, COA 339522.
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