Malpractive claim arising from delayed appointment rejected
Susan Smith suffered a brain hemorrhage while vacationing in Mexico. Physicians in Cancun performed emergency surgery to relieve the pressure on Susan's brain, and after several days, she was released to fly home. She saw her own doctors, the Oakwood Healthcare Center, Doctors Alexandria Simpson and Curtis Simmons within days, and they claimed to have referred her to the Michigan Brain and Spine Institute "ASAP". A witness from the Institute denied that claim, however, alleging that Simmons only wanted Smith to be seen "within one or two weeks" for a postop appointment.
Smith died of an intracranial bleed during the interim, and her husband filed a lawsuit over the failure to treat her promptly; the family's experts claimed that Smith's doctors should have known that merely relieving the pressure on Smith's brain with "burr holes,"--as was done in Mexico--was not likely to address the underlying cause of the hemorrhage, which required emergent care. The Defendants responded that referring Smith to a neurosurgeon "asap" met the standard of care since she was evidencing no clinical symptoms.
The jury either did not believe the scheduling witness from the Brain and Spine Institute or it rejected the standard of care claim that Smith needed to be evaluated by a neurosurgeon immediately. The jurors avoided coming back to finish the case after the holidays by rendering a "no cause" verdict.
The family also objected to the Court's mid-trial decision to bifurcate the case--allowing the jurors to decide the liability issue before a Christmas break without hearing the damage claim. The Court of Appeals considered the bifurcation decision to be a reasonable one, given the complexity of the case, the scheduling problems created by its slow presentation in court, and the family's failure to object to bifurcation at the time of the Court's decision.