Court reinstates malpractice claim that trial judge improperly dismissed
James White sued St. John Macomb Hospital and two surgeons after his wife, Bobbie Jean, bled out and died during a kidney stone removal. White's attorneys employed an expert physician-urologist who had never testified in a case before. The testifying expert indicated that he didn't know what the standards of practice were, but that he and other intelligent urologists would not have performed the procedure that killed Bobbie Jean, given her preoperative blood analysis that showed high clotting times and inadequate platelets. He concluded that the urology resident who performed the procedure was negligent in scheduling it without addressing Bobbie Jean's blood issues.
The defense attorneys took the first-time witness's statement about not knowing the "standards of practice" out of context and asked a Macomb County judge to dismiss the case. They argued that the plaintiff's expert had admitted that he was unfamiliar with the pertinent standard of care. The trial judge agreed and granted summary disposition. White's attorneys appealed.
The Court of Appeals panel judges unanimously agreed that the trial judge had erred in dismissing the case. They ruled that he committed an abuse of discretion, given the expert's testimony that "he and any careful urologist" would have reviewed the lab results and consulted a hematologist before proceeding with the PCNL procedure. The judges ruled that in context "it was apparent that...[the witness] understood the standard of care applicable."