Woman cannot sue family counselor who disclosed private matters in letter used in court, without consent
Mary B. Ivaniszyn filed a lawsuit against Terrie J. Browning and Alternative Therapies, P.C. in Oakland County, after Browning wrote a letter, addressed to the Friend of the Court, which Ivaniszyn's child's father used to support his custody action. Ivaniszyn and the father had voluntarily engaged in "family counseling" with Browning while they were living together. Browning not only referred the father to a custody lawyer and a pediatrician, but also wrote the letter suggesting facts that were deleterious to Ivaniszyn's custody of her child. Ivaniszyn alleged a breach of confidentiality, ordinary negligence, and invasion of privacy. The Court concluded, however, that her claim was one of medical malpractice and therefore governed by the shorter medical malpractice statute of limitations.
The Court ruled that it would require expert testimony to establish whether Browning owed any duty of confidentiality to Ivaniszyn, and that her counseling standard of care was beyond the knowledge of ordinary jurors. On that basis, the action needed to be filed within two years of the alleged professional error and the statute of limitations had run before the case was filed. The court also ruled that Ivaniszyn could not pursue a contract action (which is subject to a longer, six-year, statute of limitations).