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Supreme Court summarily decides malpractice claim; deems trial judge's errors "not inconsistent with substantial justice," excludes emergency standards.

The family of Daniel Jilek sued Carlin C. Stockson, M.D., and several other healthcare providers after Stockson allegedly provided negligent care to Daniel Jilek in an Urgent Care facility.  The family argued that Stockson misdiagnosed Daniel's chest pain, resulting in his death.  They argued that Stockson, a Family Practice specialist, was practicing emergency medicine in treating Jilek, and that Stockson failed to follow his employer's standards for treating patients complaining of new onset chest pain.

Jilek's lawyers served the Defendants with Interrogatory questions seeking their position with regard to whether emergency or family medicine was "the one most relevant standard" by which the court must assess Stockson's conduct.  The Defendants refused to respond.  One month before trial, the Defendants sought to limit Jilek's standard of care testimony to Family Practice specialists.  The trial judge rejected this argument, and ruled that emergency experts were qualified to testify about the standard of care in treating new onset chest pain.  Nevertheless, the trial judge refused to exclude family practice specialists from testifying, and at the end of the trial, he instructed jurors that the applicable standard of care was the standard utilized by family practice doctors staffing urgent care facilities.  This nullified much of the family's expert testimony and obviously undercut their remaining expert's credibility.  The jury ruled in the defendants' favor and the family appealed.

The Court of Appeals noted that under Michigan law, the parties were entitled to a ruling on the applicable standard of care prior to trial.  It also noted that under numerous recent rulings of the Michigan Supreme Court, only qualified experts may testify and they must testify only with regard to the one most relevant specialty. On that basis, the Court of Appeals concluded that the trial was not fairly conducted and it overturned the jury verdict and returned the case for a new trial.

This week, the Supreme Court's Republican majority summarily overturned the Court of Appeals and denied the family a new trial.  It did not issue an opinion (because to do so would cause the majority to acknowledge that the trial was not conducted in a manner consistent with the rules which it had pronounced). Instead the majority simply concluded that the trial judge's errors were not so grave as to be "inconsistent with substantial justice."  The three remaining Justices disagreed and dissented from the summary reversal.

This week the Suprem

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