Court overturns jury verdict holding Hutzel responsible for child's cerebral palsy
In White v. Hutzel Women's Hospital, the Court of Appeals overturned a verdict in which the Hospital was held responsible for a child's anoxic brain injury suffered at birth. The Defendants appealed the verdict, arguing that it was based on "pure speculation" and that the experts who testified for the child's family were not sufficiently qualified to render opinions. They also objected to the fact that the family made reference to the opinion of a treating doctor who didn't testify at trial.
The Court of Appeals rejected the argument that the family's causation evidence was unduly speculative, pointing out that the parties' experts simply disagreed over what caused the child's brain damage. The family's doctors argued it was hypoxia that would not have occurred if the standard of care for delivering by c-section had been followed; the hospital's doctors argued the cause was the mother's use of marijuana, lack of prenatal care and post-term delivery. The jury had sufficient evidence to believe either explanation.
Nevertheless, the Court overturned the verdict and sent the case back to the lower court for an entirely new trial. The high court held that the trial judge had not made an adequate record of the court's investigation of the Plaintiff's causation expert's basis for his opinions. On remand, the Court also ruled that the family could not admit into evidence any reference to a treating doctor's hearsay statement that the injury occurred at birth.