Court addresses negligent physician credentialling claim; holds hospital not responsible for continuing to credential doctor with 17 prior lawsuits
Jesuben Englelhardt sued the St. John Health System after Dr. Rajesh C. Bhagat negligently performed surgery on Ehgelhardt's hand. Bhagat struck a nerve causing permanent problems with Englehardt's hand. Bhagat settled the claim by paying his insurance limits, apparently, and Englehardt continued the action against St. John. He argued that St. John should have acted in response to Bhagat's 17 prior lawsuits to investigate Bhagat's competence.
Engelhardt presented a credentialling expert who testified that if the Hospital had reviewed Bhagat's history, it would either have denied him surgical privileges or insisted that he be mentored. The expert also affirmed that this process would have prevented Engelhardt's injuries, particularly since three of the prior claims involved surgeries similar to Engelhardt's.The trial judge rejected St. John's claims that it owed no duty to refuse to credential a negligent doctor or to investigate multiple malpractice claims. It also rejected the Hospital's claim that investigation would not have prevented Engelhardt's injuries. On appeal, the Court of Appeals confirmed that the hospital owed a statutory duty to confirm the doctor's competence prior to extending or renewing privileges, but then held that the Plaintiff's proofs of negligence did not establish causation because Engelhardt did not provide sufficient first-hand information about the nature of the 17 prior claims. This is ironic, since that information--beyond the pleadings alleged by the victims and relied upon by Engelhardt--is privileged and not available to anyone except the doctor, the patient and the institution.
So the principle of a hospital's duty to protect consumers was given "lip-service," but the victim was denied justice. This is a typical outcome in Michigan jurisprudence which is unduly influenced by insurance companies. To her credit, Judge Karen Fort Hood dissented from the majority's decision that Engelhardt's proofs were inadequate to raise a jury issue.