Justia Injury Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Michigan Supreme Court
Cramer v. Transitional Health Services
Agnes Cramer petitioned for workers’ compensation benefits for the alleged physical and mental injuries she sustained after suffering an electrical shock and falling from a ladder while working for Transitional Health Services of Wayne, which was insured by American Zurich Insurance Company. Plaintiff claimed that as a result of the shock and fall, she injured her right shoulder and suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and non-epileptic seizures. The magistrate denied benefits for plaintiff’s PTSD/non-epileptic seizure claim, finding that there was insufficient evidence that the disability was work-related. Applying the four-factor test set forth in Martin v. Pontiac Sch Dist, 2001 ACO 118, the magistrate concluded that plaintiff failed to meet her burden of proof that her employment contributed to or accelerated her mental injuries. The magistrate also denied wage-loss benefits on the basis that, although plaintiff was physically disabled from the injury to her shoulder, there was no evidence that plaintiff had made a good-faith effort to secure other employment. The Michigan Compensation Appellate Commission affirmed in part magistrate’s denial of benefits, reversing the denial of wage-loss benefits for plaintiff’s shoulder injury. Both parties appealed; the Court of Appeals denied defendants’ application for lack of merit in the grounds presented. The appeals court remanded the matter to the Board of Magistrates for a determination of whether plaintiff was entitled to a discretionary award of attorney fees on unpaid medical benefits. Plaintiff appealed to the Michigan Supreme Court, which granted review, limited to two issues: (1) whether the four-factor test in Martin was at odds with the principle that a preexisting condition is not a bar to eligibility for workers’ compensation benefits and conflicts with the plain meaning of MCL 418.301(2); and (2) assuming that Martin provides the appropriate test, whether the Court of Appeals erred by affirming the commission’s conclusion that the magistrate properly applied Martin. Ultimately the Court determined the magistrate erred in its application of Martin to their decision. The magistrate’s findings were vacated. The Court of Appeals judgment was reversed, and the case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Cramer v. Transitional Health Services" on Justia Law
Kandil-Elsayed v. F & E Oil, Inc.
Two cases consolidated for the Michigan Supreme Court's review involved premises liability, specifically slip-and-fall instances where plaintiffs both argued while the hazards were open and obvious, they were unavoidable. In Case No. 162907, Ahlam Kandil-Elsayed filed a negligence action based on premises liability after she slipped and fell at a gas station defendant F & E Oil, Inc. operated. Plaintiff argued snow and ice on the premises constituted a dangerous condition. In Case No. 163430, Renee Pinsky tripped over a cable that had been strung from a checkout counter to a display basket at a local Kroger supermarket. In both cases, defendants moved for summary judgment arguing that because the hazards were open and obvious and no special aspects were present, they owed no duty of care to plaintiffs. The trial court granted defendant's motion in the former case, but denied defendant's motion in the latter case. The respective losing parties appealed to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court reversed summary judgment in both cases: although defendants in both cases owed a duty to the respective injured plaintiffs, there remained genuine issues of fact that were relevant to whether the defendants breached that duty and if so, whether plaintiffs were comparatively at fault and should have their damages reduced. The judgments of the Court of Appeals were reversed, and both cases were remanded for further proceedings. View "Kandil-Elsayed v. F & E Oil, Inc." on Justia Law
Ottgen v. Katranji
Candi Ottgen and her husband brought a medical malpractice action against Abdalmaijid Katranji, M.D., and others, alleging that Katranji had negligently performed two thumb surgeries on her, first on May 1, 2017, the second July 23, 2017. Plaintiffs filed their action on April 11, 2019, focusing their complaint on the first surgery, but they did not attach an affidavit of merit (AOM) to the complaint as required by MCL 600.2912d(1). On May 9, 2019, defendants moved for summary judgment pursuant to Scarsella v. Pollak, 461 Mich 547 (2000), which held that filing a medical malpractice complaint without an AOM was ineffective to commence the action and thereby toll the two-year statutory limitations period. Plaintiffs responded by filing an amended complaint with an AOM that had purportedly been executed on January 30, 2019, but was not attached to the original complaint because of a clerical error. Plaintiffs also separately requested permission to make the late filing and contended that it related back to the original complaint. The trial court held that Scarsella was inapplicable because the AOM was completed when the original complaint was filed and its omission from the filing was inadvertent. The trial court also permitted plaintiffs to file their late AOM and allowed it to relate back to the April 2019 complaint. The Court of Appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding that Scarsella applied and, accordingly, that plaintiffs’ complaint was untimely with regard to the first surgery, rendering the April 2019 complaint ineffective and leaving nothing for the subsequently filed May 13, 2019 amended complaint to relate back to. The Michigan Supreme Court concluded Scarsella was erroneously decided and failed to survive a stare decisis analysis, and it was therefore overruled. "Filing an AOM under MCL 600.2912d(1) is not required to commence a medical malpractice action and toll the statutory limitations period. Instead, the normal tolling rules apply to medical malpractice actions, and tolling occurs upon the filing of a timely served complaint. A failure to comply with MCL 600.2912d(1) can still be a basis for dismissal of a case; however, the dismissal cannot be based on statute-of-limitations grounds." Because the courts below did not consider the nature of dismissals for violations of MCL 600.2912d(1), the case was remanded to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Ottgen v. Katranji" on Justia Law
Kostadinovski v. Harrington
Drago and Blaga Kostadinovski brought a medical malpractice action against Steven Harrington, M.D. and Advanced Cardiothoracic Surgeons, PLLC, asserting six specific theories with respect to how the doctor breached the standard of care throughout the course of Drago’s mitral-valve-repair surgery in December 2011, during which Drago suffered a stroke. Plaintiffs timely served defendants with a notice of intent (NOI) to file suit, timely served the complaint, and timely served the affidavit of merit. Following the close of discovery, defendants moved for summary judgment, arguing that plaintiffs’ experts were unable to validate or support the six theories asserted by plaintiffs in the NOI, affidavit of merit, and complaint. Plaintiffs agreed to the dismissal of their existing, unsupported negligence allegations and complaint but moved to amend the complaint to assert a new theory. The court denied the motion to amend the complaint, reasoning that amendment would be futile given that the existing NOI would be rendered obsolete because it did not include the new theory. Plaintiffs appealed and defendants cross-appealed. The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded to the trial court for it to apply MCL 600.2301 in considering whether plaintiffs should be allowed to amend the NOI. In a footnote to the opinion, the Court of Appeals rejected plaintiffs’ argument that MCL 600.2912b simply required the service of an NOI before suit was filed and that once a compliant and timely NOI is served, as judged at the time suit is filed and by the language in the original complaint, the requirements of the statute have been satisfied. On remand, the trial court denied plaintiffs’ motion to amend, concluding that amendment would be futile and that amending the complaint would contravene MCL 600.2912b. Plaintiffs appealed. In an unpublished per curiam opinion, the Court of Appeals affirmed. The Michigan Supreme Court concluded MCL 600.2912b did not apply where a plaintiff seeks to amend their complaint against an already-named defendant after suit has already commenced. Accordingly, the judgment of the Court of Appeals was reversed and the case remanded for further proceedings. View "Kostadinovski v. Harrington" on Justia Law
Wilmore-Moody v. Zakir
Adora Wilmore-Moody, individually and as next friend of her minor son, brought an action against Mohammed Zakir and Everest National Insurance Company, alleging that Zakir had negligently rear-ended her vehicle, and sought personal protection insurance benefits from Everest for the injuries she and her son incurred as a result of the collision. Everest did not pay the benefits but instead rescinded plaintiff’s policy on the ground that plaintiff had failed to disclose that she had a teenaged granddaughter living with her when she applied for the insurance policy. Everest then brought a counterclaim seeking declaratory relief and moved for summary judgment of plaintiff’s claim against it under MCR 2.116(C)(10), arguing that it was entitled to rescind plaintiff’s policy because she had made a material misrepresentation in her insurance application. The trial court granted Everest’s motion. After this ruling, Zakir also moved for summary judgment, arguing that plaintiff was barred from recovering third-party noneconomic damages from him under the Michigan no-fault act because once Everett rescinded plaintiff’s insurance policy, she did not have the security required by statute at the time the injury occurred. The trial court granted Zakir summary judgment too. The Court of Appeals affirmed the grant of summary judgment to Everest, reversed as to Zakir, and remanded the case for further proceedings. Zakir appealed. The Michigan Supreme Court affirmed the appellate court: an insurer’s decision to rescind a policy post-accident does not trigger the exclusion in MCL 500.3135(2)(c). "Rescission is an equitable remedy in contract, exercised at the discretion of the insurer, and does not alter the reality that, at the time the injury occurred, the injured motorist held the required security. Rescission by the insurer post-accident is not a defense that can be used by a third-party tortfeasor to avoid liability for noneconomic damages." View "Wilmore-Moody v. Zakir" on Justia Law
Jordan v. Dep’t. of Health & Human Servs.
Helen Jordan, a nurse who was formerly employed by the predecessor to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, challenged in the Michigan Compensation Appellate Commission (MCAC) the decision of a magistrate that she was not entitled to disability benefits under the Worker’s Disability Compensation Act (WDCA). In 1995, plaintiff was working for defendant’s predecessor when she was injured during an altercation with a patient. Plaintiff was prescribed opioid medication to treat leg and back pain that she said resulted from the 1995 injury, and she used the opioid medication continuously after the incident and became dependent upon it. Plaintiff began receiving disability benefits under the WDCA in 1996. In 2015, plaintiff underwent an independent medical examination at defendant’s request pursuant to MCL 418.385. The doctor who conducted the examination concluded that any disability experienced by plaintiff was not the result of the 1995 incident, and defendant subsequently discontinued plaintiff’s benefits. Plaintiff applied for reinstatement of her benefits under the WDCA. The Michigan Supreme Court determined the agency record was too incomplete to facilitate “meaningful” appellate review: “Despite the MCAC’s conclusion, whether the experts agreed that plaintiff had a limitation of her wage-earning capacity in work suitable to her qualifications and training was not clear from the record.” Therefore, the Court concluded the Court of Appeals erred by deciding this case as a matter of law because further administrative proceedings were needed. View "Jordan v. Dep’t. of Health & Human Servs." on Justia Law
Griffin v. Trumbull Insurance Co.
Willie Griffin filed suit against Trumbull Insurance Company, the Michigan Assigned Claims Plan (the MACP), Allstate Insurance Company, Esurance Property and Casualty Insurance Company, and an unnamed John Doe insurance company, seeking personal protection insurance (PIP) benefits for injuries plaintiff sustained while riding a motorcycle. In May 2016, Griffin was driving a motorcycle when a large truck merged into his lane. Griffin swerved to avoid the truck. While there was no physical collision, Griffin’s motorcycle went down, it was damaged, and he was badly injured. The responding police officer recorded the truck driver’s name, personal telephone number, and residential address in the crash report; however, the officer did not record the license plate number or VIN of the truck, the insurer of the truck, the owner of the truck, or any other identifying information regarding the truck. Days after the accident, Griffin’s attorney sent a letter to the truck driver using the address in the crash report. Trumbull, Griffin's insurer, made numerous unsuccessful attempts to contact the truck driver before closing its investigation in late December 2016. In December 2016, Griffin submitted a separate PIP benefits claim to the MACP through the Michigan Automobile Insurance Placement Facility (the MAIPF). Griffin also submitted claims to Esurance and Allstate, which were both lower-priority insurers. In April 2017, Griffin then filed this lawsuit seeking payment of his PIP benefits. During discovery, the parties learned that the truck had been owned by Pavex Corporation and insured by Harleysville Insurance. Trumbull moved for summary judgment, arguing that it was not liable to pay PIP benefits because Harleysville was the highest-priority insurer. The MACP also moved for summary judgment (Allstate, Esurance, and the John Doe insurance company were dismissed by stipulation), and those orders were not appealed. The trial court granted the two summary judgment motions, holding that Harleysville was the highest-priority insurer and that Griffin had not exercised reasonable diligence in attempting to timely locate Harleysville. The Michigan Supreme Court reversed in part, finding that Griffin properly filed a claim under the no-fault act against all insurers who were identifiable prior to the expiration of the limitations period and that Trumbull’s delaying a decision on payment or denial of Griffin’s claim until after the limitations period expired did not excuse it from liability to pay PIP benefits. The trial court erred by granting Trumbull’s summary-disposition motion, and the Court of Appeals erred by affirming on the basis that a previously unidentifiable higher-priority insurer became identifiable during litigation well after the one-year notice and limitations period in MCL 500.3145 had expired. View "Griffin v. Trumbull Insurance Co." on Justia Law
Estate of Corrado v. Rieck, et al.
Lesley Meyers, personal representative of the estate of Samuel Corrado, filed an action against Karen Rieck; Radi Gerbi; Shelby Nursing Center Joint Venture, doing business as Shelby Nursing Center; and others alleging that defendants were negligent and had committed medical malpractice in treating Corrado. Corrado, the decedent, was a patient at Shelby Nursing Center, a nursing home, in 2014. The nursing home had a standing order for patients with nausea that directed staff to, among other things, administer an antinausea medication and to notify the patient’s doctor immediately if the patient had more than one episode of vomiting in a 24-hour period. Pursuant to the standing order, Gerbi administered the antinausea medication to Corrado. Gerbi also attempted to call a physician, but when he was unable to reach the physician he went on break instead. Meyers, Corrado’s daughter, called the nursing home to have someone sent to Corrado’s room. When she was unsuccessful, Meyers went to the nursing home herself, where she found Corrado having difficulty breathing. Corrado was taken to the hospital, where he died from hypoxia due to aspiration. During discovery, plaintiff learned of the standing order and moved to amend the complaint to add to its ordinary-negligence claim allegations that Gerbi had failed to comply with the standing order to contact a physician after Corrado’s second vomiting episode. In response, Shelby Nursing Center moved to dismiss the new claim, arguing that the standing order was not evidence of ordinary negligence, could not be used to establish the standard of care in a medical malpractice claim, and could not be admitted as evidence in support of a medical malpractice claim. The trial court granted plaintiff’s motion to amend and denied Shelby Nursing Center’s motion to dismiss. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that plaintiff’s proposed amended claim sounded in medical malpractice, rather than ordinary negligence. The Court of Appeals also concluded that the standing order could not be used to establish the standard of care for a medical malpractice claim and could not be admitted as evidence at trial. The Michigan Supreme Court concluded after review that plaintiff’s proposed amendment sounded in medical malpractice, and the standard of care in a medical malpractice action could not be established by the internal rules and regulations of the defendant medical provider. Those rules and regulations, however, might be admissible as evidence in determining the standard of care, provided that the jury is instructed that they do not constitute the standard of care. View "Estate of Corrado v. Rieck, et al." on Justia Law
Champine v. Department of Transportation
Norman Champine brought an action against the Michigan Department of Transportation in the Court of Claims alleging that defendant had breached its duty to maintain I-696. Plaintiff was driving on I-696 in Macomb County when a large piece of concrete dislodged from the road and crashed through the windshield of his car, causing serious injuries. The Court of Claims granted summary judgment in favor of defendant on the basis that plaintiff had failed to provide proper notice under MCL 691.1404. The court reasoned that plaintiff’s separate notice to defendant was inadequate because it was not filed in the Court of Claims, the complaint itself could not serve as notice, and the complaint had not identified the exact location of the highway defect. Plaintiff appealed, and the Court of Appeals affirmed in an unpublished per curiam opinion, holding that the filing of a complaint could not satisfy the statutory notice requirements. The Court of Appeals declined to address whether plaintiff also failed to adequately describe the location of the incident, even assuming plaintiff’s complaint could serve as proper notice. The Michigan Supreme Court determined “notice” was not defined by MCL 691.1404, so courts were permitted to consider its plain meaning as well as its placement and purpose in the statutory scheme. "The plain meaning of the word 'notice' in the context of the statute indicates only that the governmental agency must be made aware of the injury and the defect. The statute does not require advance notice beyond the filing of the complaint, and the Court of Appeals erred by holding otherwise. Plaintiff properly gave notice by timely filing his complaint in the Court of Claims." Nonetheless, the case had to be remanded to the Court of Appeals for that Court to address whether the complaint adequately specified the exact location and nature of the defect as required by MCL 691.1404(1). View "Champine v. Department of Transportation" on Justia Law
McMaster v. DTE Energy Company
Dean McMaster brought a negligence action against DTE Energy Company, Ferrous Processing and Trading Company (Ferrous), and DTE Electric Company (DTE), seeking compensation for injuries he sustained when a metal pipe fell out of a scrap container and struck him in the leg. DTE, the shipper, contracted with Ferrous to sell scrap metal generated by its business. DTE and Ferrous moved for summary judgment, and the trial court granted the motion as to DTE but denied the motion as to Ferrous. McMaster settled with Ferrous and appealed with regard to DTE. The Court of Appeals affirmed, reasoning that DTE did not have a duty to warn of or protect McMaster from a known danger, relying on the open and obvious danger doctrine. McMaster sought leave to appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court peremptorily vacated Part III of the opinion and remanded the case to the Court of Appeals for consideration of DTE’s legal duty under the law of ordinary negligence. On remand, the Court of Appeals again affirmed the trial court, finding that the common-law duty of a shipper was abrogated by Michigan’s passage of MCL 480.11a, which adopted the federal motor carrier safety regulations as part of the Motor Carrier Safety Act (the MCSA). The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that the common-law duty of care owed by a shipper to a driver was not abrogated by MCL 480.11a. As an issue of first impression, the Court adopted the “shipper’s exception” or “Savage rule” to guide negligence questions involving participants in the trucking industry, as this rule was consistent with Michigan law. Applying this rule, the Supreme Court affirmed on alternate grounds, the grant of summary disposition to DTE Electric Company (DTE) because there existed no genuine issue of material fact that DTE did not breach its duty to plaintiff. View "McMaster v. DTE Energy Company" on Justia Law