Insurance-oriented Michigan Supreme Court overturns lower courts; rules victim's experts cannot offer opinions
The Estate of Sandra Peetz sued Sachinder S. Hans, M.D., and Henry Ford Hospital, claiming that Hans' management of Ms. Peetz's carotid endarterectomy (CTA), caused her death. The Estate offered the testimony of a vascular surgeon and a neurosurgeon, both having what the appeals court deemed "extensive" related experience, to confirm that Hans caused a fatal bleeding event by failing to properly use a shunt to perform the procedure, and by failing to respond properly when complications developed. The defendants sought to prevent the experts from testifying by arguing that no one had ever documented in "peer-reviewed literature" the causation explanation the experts offered.
The trial judge and the Court of Appeals unanimously rejected the Defendants' arguments, holding that the experienced experts' opinions were corroborated by textbooks and consistent with the known evidence relating to hypoperfusion of soft organs. They held there was sufficient foundation in science to admit the victim's experts' opinions to be considered by the jury.
The Supreme Court reversed, last week, in a one paragraph opinion holding that the experts' opinions must not be allowed into evidence because they lacked sufficient "supporting literature." Rather than assessing the weight to be given their opinions, the jury will never hear their opinions (or the case at all, since "admissible" expert opinion evidence is necessary to bring a case to trial.
Note that "peer-reviewed literature" is controlled not by the government or consumer groups, but rather by voluntary trade associations under the control of physician specialty groups. Calling victims' expert's opinions "speculative" and refusing to admit them into evidence is part of the de facto immunity that Michigan's Republican Supreme Court Justices have conferred on doctors and hospitals.
Post-script: John Kaplansky noted to us that he is the family's attorney on this case and that he expects to be able to prove negligence despite the Supreme Court's ruling limiting his expert testimony.