Case Victory Establishes New Precedent in Michigan

Our firm recently won a case in the area of medical malpractice vs. negligence that establishes a new precedent in the State of Michigan. Click here to read the full court decision and opinion from the case. Details from the case are provided below:

Case: Trowell v. Providence Hosp. & Med. Ctrs., Inc.
Court: Michigan Court of Appeals ( Published Opinion )
Judges: Murphy, Stephens, and Boonstra

Issues:
Whether the plaintiff’s claims arising from allegedly being “dropped” twice in the defendant-hospital sounded in medical malpractice or ordinary negligence; Bryant v. Oakpointe Villa Nursing Ctr., Inc.; Wiley v. Henry Ford Cottage Hosp.; Sturgis Bank & Trust Co. v. Hillsdale Cmty. Health Ctr.; Gold v. Sinai Hosp. of Detroit, Inc.; Fogel v. Sinai Hosp. of Detroit; Claim as to the number of aides or nurses used to assist plaintiff; Whether a nurse’s aide was negligent in the manner in which she physically assisted plaintiff; Determining the gravamen of a complaint; Kuznar v. Raksha Corp.; Principle that medical malpractice action procedural requirements cannot be avoided by couching the cause of action in ordinary negligence terms; Dorris v. Detroit Osteopathic Hosp. Corp.

Summary:
Because the court could not conclude based on the allegations in the complaint that the plaintiff’s claims sounded in medical malpractice rather than ordinary negligence, it reversed the trial court’s order granting the defendant-hospital summary disposition and remanded for further factual development. Plaintiff suffered a stroke. She alleged that she was told “that two nurses needed to assist her whenever she went to the bathroom, yet ‘on several occasions’ the hospital only employed one nurse to assist” her. On one occasion an unassisted female nurse was tasked with helping her and “she ‘dropped’ plaintiff, causing her to hit her head on a wheelchair.” When the aide tried to help her “after dropping her, the aide ‘dropped [p]laintiff a second time.’”

As to the claim related to the number of workers used to assist her, the court found that “medical judgment, knowledge, and expertise could certainly play an integral role in determining whether one person or two persons should assist a patient in walking or moving.” However, it could also envision a situation where the determination of whether it was negligent to use just one worker to help a patient “can be made by a jury on the basis of the jurors’ common knowledge and experience.” If the weight differential between the aide and plaintiff was significant, or if the aide had some type of disability “or a recent injury bearing on her ability to provide assistance, a layperson, absent expert medical testimony, might be able to easily and properly evaluate the reasonableness of the decision not to seek a second aide or nurse” to help. Medical judgment and experience also may or may not be needed to evaluate whether the aide was negligent in the manner in which she assisted plaintiff.

In some cases “it may be necessary to consider matters that implicate medical judgment in conjunction with matters that do not implicate medical judgment relative to evaluating whether negligence occurred in moving or handling a patient,” effectively making the case one of medical malpractice. However, it could not determine from the allegations in the complaint whether this case fell into that category. It also noted that the trial court “must keep in mind that the first and second ‘droppings’ may be distinguishable under Bryant.”

If you’d like to know more, please contact us today.

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Written by Carla D. Aikens

Carla D. Aikens

After years of working for large law firms on major corporate cases, Carla D. Aikens chose to go out on her own and found her own firm because she is passionate about helping people of whom others have taken advantage.