Wrongful Death malpractice claim is dismissed
The Estate of Paul Green sued Charles PIerson, M.D., Barbara Carlson, M.D. and several institutional defendants after Green died in 2000 of cardiac-related problems. Green's Estate filed a detailed notice of intent that alleged a number of deficiencies in the care Green received, and then asserted that Green died as a result of these breaches of care. The Estate did not specifically describe the manner in which breaching the standard of care led to Green's death, however.
The Defendants did not argue that Green's claim should be dismissed because they were not adequately apprised of Green's theory regarding the "causation" of Green's death, however, when they sought summary disposition based on their interpretation of the statute of limitations, the Berrien County judge raised the causation issue on his own. From the bench, he ruled that Green's Notice of Intent was not adequate to explain the manner in which Defendants' breach of the standard of care caused Green's death, and on that basis he dismissed the case.
The Estate appealed, arguing that if Defendants were not adequately informed of the nature of the Estate's malpractice claim, THEY would have raised the issue and did not: therefore, the attorneys argued, it would grossly elevate form over substance for the court to sua sponte raise this issue and dismiss the claim. Further, they argued that a recent Supreme Court case rejected such a rigid reading of the medical malpractice "reform" statutes.
The Court of Appeals disagreed with both arguments and dismissed the wrongful death claim. In a ruling on several issues, it held that Green's Estate could not rely on the recent Supreme Court decision; that it was bound by earlier decisions involving the statute of limitations with regard to some Defendants; and that the Judge did not exceed the bounds of discretion in raising the "causation" issue--even though apparently the alleged technical deficiency had not prejudiced the Defendants or prompted their attorneys to raise the issue.