Michigan Court Discusses the Difference Between Claims of Medical Malpractice and Ordinary Negligence

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The allegations laid out in a plaintiff’s complaint are the basis for the claim. Thus, the manner in which a case is pled can have an enormous impact on how it proceeds through the court system. Earlier this year, the Michigan Supreme Court issued an opinion requiring the court to determine whether the allegations in the plaintiff’s complaint were medical malpractice claims or ordinary negligence claims. If you have questions of this nature, be sure to reach out to a Michigan medical malpractice attorney.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against a hospital after she was injured while being treated at the hospital. Evidently, the plaintiff was admitted to the hospital after she had an aneurysm, causing her to suffer a stroke and cardiac arrest. The plaintiff claimed that while she was being treated at the hospital, an aide helped move her to the bathroom and dropped her twice in the process. She claimed that she suffered a torn rotator cuff as a result, requiring her to undergo multiple surgeries, as well as bleeding in her brain.

In her complaint, the plaintiff argued that the hospital was negligent in several ways, including in failing to provide an adequate number of nurses to assist the plaintiff, failing to properly train the nurse, and failing to ensure the plaintiff’s safety. The plaintiff filed the claims against the hospital within three years of her admission at the hospital.

The hospital argued that the plaintiff’s claims were barred by the two-year statute of limitations applicable to medical malpractice claims, because the complaint was filed more than two years after the claims accrued. The plaintiff argued that the complaint was not based in medical malpractice, but rather in ordinary negligence, which had a three-year statute of limitations. A trial court originally agreed with the hospital, but an appeals court later reversed and sent the case back to the trial court to gather more information. The case made its way to the Michigan Supreme Court, which was tasked with deciding whether the plaintiff’s claims were based in medical malpractice or ordinary negligence.

Medical Malpractice Versus Ordinary Negligence

Medical malpractice claims can be hard to distinguish from ordinary negligence claims in some situations. Michigan courts have explained that medical malpractice claims are those that require expert testimony to determine whether a defendant acted or failed to act in a way that met the relevant standard of care. In contrast, ordinary negligence claims do not require expert testimony. In ordinary negligence claims, a jury can determine whether a defendant was negligent based on the jury’s common knowledge and experience.

The Court’s Decision

First, the court held that the intermediate appellate court never should have sent the case back to the trial court to gather more information because that court should only have considered the plaintiff’s complaint. Second, the Michigan Supreme Court examined the complaint and determined that it included some claims of medical malpractice, but also contained one claim of ordinary negligence. The court explained that the allegation that the nurse negligently dropped the plaintiff a second time was based on a claim of ordinary negligence. Evidently, the nurse discovered a danger when she tried to move the plaintiff the first time and failed to take corrective action to prevent it from happening again. This failure did not require medical judgment or expert testimony, and set forth a claim that a jury could decide “relying only on common knowledge and experience.” Therefore, that claim was timely filed, and the plaintiff could proceed with that claim against the hospital.

Consult a Medical Malpractice Attorney

If you or a loved one has been injured due to the negligence of a health care provider, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The Michigan medical malpractice attorneys at the Neumann Law Group can evaluate your medical malpractice claim. Neumann Law Group has over 200 years of combined experience and is dedicated to helping accident victims successfully navigate the legal system. To set up a free consultation, contact the Neumann Law Group today toll-free at 800-525-NEUMANN or through our online form.

See Related Posts:

Michigan Train Accident Victim Asks for New Trial, Michigan Injury Lawyer Blog, November 26, 2018.

Healthcare Provider Tries to Intervene in Michigan Car Accident Case, Michigan Injury Lawyer Blog, November 9, 2018.

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