Michigan court upholds state expert witness rules

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted Aug. 21, 2006

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The Michigan Supreme Court in July ruled 4-3 that plaintiff expert witnesses in medical liability lawsuits must have the same professional credentials in the same specialty, including subspecialties, as the defendant physician. The expert does not, however, have to match the qualifications a defendant doctor may have that are in an area of medicine that is not relevant to the alleged injury, the high court said.

The decision clarified Michigan's 1994 tort reform measure that outlined the criteria a medical expert must meet in order to testify about the standard of care in a medical liability case.

The Michigan State Medical Society, which filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case, praised the high court's ruling, saying it will help prevent unfounded testimony from entering the courtroom.

"It's important because only an expert that has the same qualifications and actually practices in that area is qualified to testify whether or not the defendant met the standard of practice," said MSMS legal counsel Daniel J. Schulte.

The Michigan Trial Lawyers Assn. had argued that the ruling would hurt patients with legitimate claims.

The decision "cheapens [doctors'] actual certifications and will end up costing doctors and injured patients more money as even more medical professionals will have to be hauled into court in even more complex proceedings in order to find out who was negligent and who was responsible," said attorney C. Jesse Green, MTLA spokesman.

Note: This item originally appeared at

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