Court holds family cannot force Henry Ford Hospital to produce its suicide protocol in wrongful death case
Jack Hill committed suicide six days after an ER visit to Henry Ford Hospital arising out of "medical issues and depression." Hill's family claimed that the hospital failed to follow the standard of care in responding to Hill's mental condition, in that it failed to obtain a psychiatric consultation, failed to assess suicide risk, and failed to formulate a plan to reduce that risk. During discovery, the family sought a copy of the Hospital's protocol for treatment of potential suicides in the Emergency Room.
The trial judge ruled that the hospital should turn over its protocol, as the family's review of it might "lead to the discovery of admissible evidence." [That is the correct legal standard.] On appeal, the Court of Appeals ruled that the trial judge abused his discretion in ordering the protocol to be turned over. It ruled that under recent decisions of Michigan's appellate courts, the defendant's internal guidelines are not relevant to whether it followed the standard of care, and that they therefore cannot "lead to the discovery of admissible evidence."
In prior years, we were able to secure copies of internal rules and guidelines, even from the most hostile of local judges, as judges recognized that these "rules" are perhaps the best evidence of what the "standard of care" was and should have been. Frankly, that is one reason why hospitals fight desperately to avoid turning them over: they know that acknowledging the internal rules of care will shed light on what should have happened--even if the rules aren't ultimately admitted for the jury's review.