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Law School Case Brief

McDougall v. Schanz - 461 Mich. 15, 597 N.W.2d 148 (1999)


A statutory rule of evidence violates Mich. Const. art VI, § 5 only when no clear legislative policy reflecting considerations other than judicial dispatch of litigation can be identified. Therefore, if a particular court rule contravenes a legislatively declared principle of public policy, having as its basis something other than court administration the court rule should yield. The distinction between policy considerations involving the orderly dispatch of judicial business on the one hand and policy considerations involving something more than that on the other hand is the distinction that must be carried through into the evidence field.


Two cases were consolidated for appeal to determine whether MCL 600.2169; MSA 27A.2169, which provided strict requirements for the admission of expert testimony in medical malpractice cases brought against specialists, impermissibly infringed the exclusive authority of the Supreme Court of Michigan under Const. 1963, art 6, § 5 to promulgate court ruled. In the first case, plaintiff Edward McDougall's wife, Sandra McDougall, became ill. She was treated by defendant Reuben Eliuk, D.O., a specialist in internal medicine. However, Mrs. McDougall died, allegedly from resultant complications of undiagnosed diabetes. Mr. McDougall filed a medial malpractice action in Michigan state court against Dr. Eliuk, the hospital, and several other physicians. Mr. McDougall offered Glen Mark Robia, M.D., as his expert to establish the standard of care owed by Dr. Eliuk. Like Dr. Eliuk, Dr. Robia was also board certified in internal medicine. However, at the tile of trial, he had not practiced in that field for some time. The trial court granted Dr. Eliuk's motion in limine to exclude Dr. Robia's testimony on the ground that Dr. Robia was not qualified under MCL 600.2169. Dr. Eliuk was granted summary disposition. On appeal, the appellate court affirmed in part and reversed in part, finding that § 2169 conflicted with MRE 702 and, moreover, that the statute was an unconstitutional violation of state supreme court's rule-making authority. Dr. Eliuk was granted leave to appeal.

In the second case, plaintiff John Sobran was diagnosed with colon cancer in 1976. He filed a medical malpractice suit in Michigan state court against defendant Dr. Alasdair McKendrick, a board-certified colorectal surgeon, alleging that Dr. McKendrick should have performed a sigmoidoscopy in 1991. Sobran claimed that, had Dr. McKendrick done so, he would have discovered the polyps over a year before the examination performed by Dr. Fox in 1992. Sobran offered Dr. Mark Caminker as his expert to establish the standard of care owed by McKendrick. While Dr. Caminker was board certified in internal medicine and gastroenterology he was not a colorectal surgeon. However, Dr. Caminker testified in his deposition that internists and surgeons followed the same standards of care for the diagnosis of gastrointestinal problems and for the performance of diagnostic procedures such as sigmoidoscopy. Dr. McKendrick sought to exclude Dr. Caminker's proffered expert testimony. Dr. McKendrick argued that Dr. Caminker was not qualified under MCL 600.2169; MSA 27A.2169 to testify regarding the standards of care applicable to colorectal surgeons. The trial court granted the motion and, after declining to allow Sobran additional time to locate another expert, dismissed Sobran’s claim with prejudice. Sobran appealed, and the appellate court the upheld the trial court's ruling on the ground that Dr. Carminker was not qualified under MRE 702, a ground that was neither argued before nor decided by the trial court. Sobran was granted leave to appeal.

In each case, the parties were ordered to address the question whether the statute was invalid as in conflict with MRE 702. 456 Mich. 905 (1997).


Did § 2169 impermissibly infringe the state supreme court's constitutional rule-making authority over practice and procedure?




The Supreme Court of Michigan reversed the appellate court's judgment and reinstated the trial court's grant of summary disposition in favor of Dr. Eliuk in the McDougall case; the court affirmed the appellate court's judgment in the Sobran case. The court determined that it appeared that the legislature envisioned and intended that § 2169 would often compel different qualification determinations than Mich. R. Evid. 702 when applied to a given case. Because § 2169 and Mich. R. Evid. 702 clearly conflicted, the court had to determine whether the statute impermissibly infringed upon the court's constitutional authority to enact rules governing practice and procedure. The court concluded § 2169 was an enactment of substantive law, thus it did not impermissibly infringe the court's constitutional rule-making authority over "practice and procedure."

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