On December 19, 2012, a doctor performed a Roux-en-Y gastric bypass and hernia repair on a patient. The doctor performed the gastric bypass procedure laparoscopically, but he found it necessary to open the abdomen to complete the hernia repair. During his recovery, the plaintiff vomited numerous times, including his intestinal contents. The doctor determined that the plaintiff needed a second surgery to repair an acute small bowel obstruction, which he believed was related to the hernia repair. On December 21, 2012, he operated on the plaintiff for the small bowel obstruction. The doctor and the anesthesiologist discussed whether to use a nasogastric (NG) tube, but the doctor decided against it because of the risk of perforating the fresh anastomosis from the gastric bypass procedure. The plaintiff subsequently aspirated, causing aspiration pneumonitis that in turn caused adult respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), a stage IV bed sore, and neuropathy in the plaintiff’s legs.The plaintiff filed a Michigan medical malpractice action against the defendants, alleging that the standard of care was breached by the failure to place an NG tube before the second surgery, although one was placed after the plaintiff aspirated. Both parties retained expert witnesses who disputed whether the doctor should have inserted an NG tube to avoid aspiration before the plaintiff’s second surgery.
Following discovery, the plaintiff filed a motion to strike the testimony of the defendants’ two expert witnesses. He argued that the experts’ opinions that an NG tube should not have been placed before the second surgery were based solely on their own personal opinions and experience. Therefore, he argued the defendants’ experts’ opinions were scientifically unreliable and should be precluded under MCL 600.2955 and MRE 702. Furthermore, the plaintiff argued that one of them incorrectly defined “standard of care” as “[w]hat a prudent individual of similar experience and expertise would do,” and he incorrectly applied a local, rather than a national, standard of care.
Following oral arguments, the trial court denied the motion as to the scientific reliability of the defendants’ experts’ opinions, holding that a decision would be made at trial about whether an expert opinion is based on a sufficient foundation. However, the trial court granted the motion with respect to the testimony of the one witness for articulating the wrong standard of care, i.e., one of prudence, a standard of care not applicable in Michigan. Thus, his expert opinion was unreliable, and he was stricken as an expert witness.