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Sunday, October 20, 2019

Michigan Court of Appeals says lower court erred regarding testimony in case over MRI back injury


By Charmaine Little | Nov 15, 2018

LANSING, Mich. (Legal Newsline) – On Oct. 30, Michigan’s Court of Appeals determined a lower court erred when it granted a summary disposition and reversed and remanded the ruling in a suit filed by man who was allegedly injured during an MRI.

Judges Jonathan Tukel, Jane Beckering and Douglas Shapiro concurred on the opinion.

While the Wayne Circuit Court granted St. John Hospital and Medical Center's motion for summary disposition, the appeals court sided with the plaintiff, the estate of George Heidt through Brian Heidt, and said that the trial court made a mistake when it ruled the plaintiff didn’t properly establish questions of material fact concerning standard of care, breach and causation.

“Plaintiff argues that the trial court erred in disregarding its experts’ standard-of-care opinions,” the Appeals Court stated. “We agree.”

It pointed out one of the reasons the trial court disregarded the plaintiff’s expert’s (Darlene Perelka) standard-of-care’s testimony, which favored the plaintiff’s argument, is because the lower court claimed she didn’t have any scientific foundation for her opinion other than ethic codes that call for MRI techs to proceed with caution, care and safety for the patient.

"Regardless of its admissibility at trial, we see no reason why a code of ethics would be irrelevant to the court’s inquiry into the reliability of Perelka’s testimony," the ruling states.

It also disagreed with the trial court that the expert had to have scientific backing to prove MRI technicians shouldn’t use physical force to put a patient into the supine position. The court said Perelka wasn’t offering testimony in a scientific matter. 

“She did not offer an opinion regarding a novel or complex scientific theory and did not provide a medical opinion regarding the cause of the injury,” the ruling states.

Instead, Perelka’s testimony spoke to the standard of care George Heidt should have received and that a patient who already had issues lying flat shouldn’t be put in that position by physical force. 

Concerning the breach complaint, the appeals court also sided with the plaintiff and said there is enough proof to support Perelka’s testimony that the MRI technicians breached the standard of care “by using force to place George supine rather than allowing him to lie down on his own.”

Regarding causation, the appeals court also agreed with the plaintiff that the trial court erred when it decided the plaintiff only offered speculative evidence to prove causation. It pointed out the plaintiff provided three causation experts, including two neurosurgeons. 

The lawsuit came about after George Heidt died following complications from a back surgery at the hospital. According to the ruling, Heidt was admitted into St. John after he suffered a fall at home and was referred to the hospital to get an MRI. While there are contradicting testimonies of what actually took place during the MRI and how Heidt was placed on his back, it was determined at some point he was supine and laid flat on his back. 

The ruling states he reportedly told the MRI technicians he had extreme pain in his abdomen while in the machine. When they helped him sit back up, he said he couldn’t feel his legs. Heidt then underwent emergency neurosurgery, which determined his T-10 vertebra was broken, causing a serious injury to his spinal cord. He was paraplegic for roughly the next three months until his death. 

His estate sued the hospital, the MRI techs, and the physicians as well as the professional corporations that employed them. The trial court dismissed the claims against the physicians. 

The hospital then moved for summary disposition and said the estate’s experts provided “conflicting and unsupported testimony” concerning the standard of care," the ruling states.

It also said the plaintiff offered speculative theories of causation against the MRI technicians. The plaintiff then appealed after the trial court granted the summary disposition.

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