Saturday, July 24, 2004

Michigan Supreme Court Tosses $21 Million Malpractice Verdict

The Michigan Supreme Court has overturned a $21 million verdict in a medical malpractice case, faulting the trial court for failing to conduct a gatekeeping hearing on plaintiff's causation testimony.  Plaintiff alleged that his cerebral palsy resulted from the administration of the drug Pitocin to the mother during labor.  (The theory was that Pitocin caused intense contractions, which subjected the plaintiff to head trauma during delivery.)  The trial judge concluded that where defendants had offered no evidence that plaintiff's expert relied on a novel theory, no hearing was required.  The Supreme Court held that the trial court's approach would improperly shift the burden of persuasion on admissibility, requiring defendants to prove a negative.  It went on to hold that remand for a new trial was unnecessary, because plaintiff had also failed to produce sufficient evidence to sustain the verdict on the issue of defendants' duty of care.

The decision in Craig v. Oakwood Hosp., No. 121405 (Mich. Sup. Ct. July 23, 2004), is not yet available at the Michigan Supreme Court's website. Here's the AP report.

Update 7/28/04: Here's the opinion.

Update 7/30/04: Here's M. Sean Fosmire's take on the decision.


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Fed. R. Evid. 702: If scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue, a witness qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education, may testify thereto in the form of an opinion or otherwise, if (1) the testimony is based upon sufficient facts or data, (2) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods, and (3) the witness has applied the principles and methods reliably to the facts of the case.