Michigan Supreme Court reduces malpractice death recovery
The MIchigan Supreme Court recently decided not to hear argument on the Young v. Nandi, et al., medical malpractice wrongful death case. The Plaintiff in Young had obtained a jury verdict against his wife's doctor. The insurers for the doctor and his practice had raised a number of appellate issues, most of which were dismissed by the Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court upheld the fact of the verdict and rejected the Defendant's argument that the higher cap on non-economic damages ($500,000) can never apply to a death case because "an estate can't suffer neurological damages". Nevertheless, the Court also reduced the verdict to the lower cap ($280,000.00) because the wife might have recovered brain function and communication ability if she had ever recovered enough to be weaned from the respirator she was placed on after the Defendant's malpractice. That's right--her neurological dysfunction arising from being sedated and ventilated (placed in a coma, in other words) was not "permanent" because if she hadn't died, she might have improved.
The Court is currently split, with 3 Republican activists arguing that a dead malpractice victim should always be limited to the lower ($280,000) cap on non-economic damages. The four remaining justices essentially believe that at a minimum, a person suffering permanent, serious neurological injury before dying--which would qualify for the higher cap--retains the right to recover the higher cap even if he or she later dies prior to a verdict being rendered.
On the bright side, the entire Court rejected all of the insurer's additional arguments of error except its claim that a hearing must be held to determine the proper award of attorneys fees to the Plaintiff arsing out of the Defendant's rejection of case evaluation. The Court dismissed for a second time an insurer's claim that the victim's failure to schedule a hearing on the victim's Blue Cross medical expenses within 10 days of the verdict relieved it of paying for those expenses. The Court noted that Blue Cross had been advised of its lien and the purpose of the statute had been served. (Basically, the Defendants wanted to force the victim to pay Blue Cross for the treatment the Defendant's negligence had caused, out of the victim's $280,000.00 non-economic recovery.)