Court upholds judgment that head injury unrelated to schizophrenic symptoms; accepts IME testimony over treaters' opinions
Farm Bureau sued Gabriel Warriner, seeking a declaratory judgment that it should no longer be obligated to provide attendant care and head injury treatment to Warriner 9 years after his motor vehicle accident. Warriner's treating doctors testified that he suffered a moderately serious head injury and that his psychotic symptoms were a manifestation of that injury. The IME doctors retained by Farm Bureau disputed this conclusion and argued that they symptoms were true schizophrenia that simply had not been diagnosed prior to the car accident. The "hired guns" argued that Warriner displayed personality characteristics during his school years that were not atypical precursors of schizophrenia.
The parties had stipulated to a bench trial rather than a jury trial, and the judge decided that the insurer's experts were more reliable than the treaters. The man's family appealed, but the high court ruled that there was sufficient evidence in support of the IME doctor's opinions to support the judge's decision. It noted that issues of credibility and factual determinations are usually left to the Circuit Court trier-of-fact--even in a case submitted on depositions and affidavits.
The Court had no problem with the legal standard which prior Michigan courts have applied to No Fault causation: i.e., that the wreck need not be the sole cause or even a "major" cause of injury; it need only be "a significant contributing factor." Thus, the causation testimony of the several treaters who believed that the head injury played a substantial role in the young man's current condition was simply dismissed as not credible or reliable.