Court of Appeals rejects malpractice insurer's misuse of legal proceduresIn Estate of Daniel Jilek vs. Carlin Stockson, M.D., et al., the Michigan Court of Appeals overturned a jury verdict for the medical providers, concluding that it was a result of improper legal tactics by the attorneys and error by the trial court. The Court noted that the attorneys for Stockson engaged in protracted "gamesmanship" by attempting to stall a decision about the proper standard of care--without identifying what it claimed to be the proper standard--until after the statute of limitations had been exhausted.
The attorneys for the family of the decedent did not succumb to the delaying tactic and secured a ruling by the trial court confirming that the relevant standard of care was emergency medicine. After this ruling, however, the trial court allowed the defense attorneys to engage in trial by ambush through argument that the true standard of care should either be Family Practice or Urgent Care Medicine.
The Court of Appeals noted that after the trial court's original ruling--which was in accordance with the higher courts' decisions on the topic--the trial court should have maintained a consistent legal standard, precluded the Defendants from arguing a contrary standard, allowed the trial attorneys to know in advance the standard to be applied, and instructed the jury in accordance with its ruling. Since the lower court erred in all of these ways, the Court of Appeals would not allow the jury's decision to stand in the absence of a fair trial. On appeal, the Court also held that the Plaintiff could introduce into evidence medical standards adopted by the Defendants, themselves, and by reliable authorities within the medical field, to help the jury determine the true standard of care. The Defendants had ignored existing opinion language allowing for the admission of this type of evidence and argued they would be prejudiced by its admission.