Court holds that injured man may pursue malpractice claim on behalf of himself and bankruptcy trustee
David Pulice sued three doctors and Botsford General Hospital for malpractice before his bankruptcy Chapter 7 proceeding was completed. He disclosed the injury claim to the bankruptcy trustee who didn't object to it being treated as an exempted asset. Exempted assets are limited to about $20,000.00, however, and Pulice listed the value as "unknown."
When he filed suit, the insurance attorneys for the doctors pesuaded the trial judge to dismiss the claim, holding that only the bankruptcy trustee had "standing" to sue on the injury claim. The Court of Appeals rejected this suggestion, noting that Pulice still "owned" the exempted amount of the claim. The insurance attorneys also argued that Pulice should not be able to pursue the full value of his claim, and that since his share was less than the $25,000.00 jurisdictional limit of the Circuit Court, it should be dismissed. Once again the court disagree, however, holding that Pulice could pursue the claim for its full value, although the Trustee would "own" anything above the exempted value of approximately $20,000.00. Finally, the court rejected the defendants' rather absurd suggsetion that Pulice should be judicially estopped from pursuing the claim because he had disclosed to the Trustee that the case might be of limited value.