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An unlikely and injudicious ruling on the impact of medical records

     It has long been maintained that "hard cases make bad law".  That principle was demonstrated once again in Thomas v. Schneider, an unpublished per curiam opinion of the the Michigan Court of Appeals.  From what can be gleaned from the opinion, it appears that the plaintiff in Thomas appeared to the Judges to be misrepresenting the injuries she suffered in a motor vehicle collision and over-stating their impact on her prior medical state.  In summarily dismissing her auto no fault claim, the judges felt that the need to eliminate her contradictory deposition testimony so that a "non-deserving" Plaintiff could be dismissed without a trial weighing conflicting evidence.  To achieve that goal, the Court held that her deposition testimony about her condition could not be considered because it contradicted her prior statements to medical treaters.

     Reading between the lines, it appears that the appellate court concluded that the Plaintiff was not truthful and did not want her to waste the resources of a "day in court".  Nevertheless, it went much too far when it struck her testimony:  no rule of evidence or court rule would justify this outcome.  We have seen too many examples of hurried, forgetful or even biased doctors making mistakes or mis-statements in medical records to allow these hurried chart notes to completely exclude a witnesses' explanation.  A health care provider's primary responsibility is to treat the patient and it does just happen on occasion that a medical chart will mistakenly refer to the wrong gender of the patient, the wrong limb being injured, the wrong accident facts (from another ER case of the same date) or create some other confusion or error.  We have personally witnessed numerous examples of this nature of the years.  The ruling in Thomas v. Schneider is simply bad law and ultimately too draconian an exercise of judicial discretion to be justifiable--simply to uphold the summary dismissal of one "bad" case.

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
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Traverse City, Michigan 49684
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