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A Better Partnership
April 23, 2015

Michigan Supreme Court upholds full privilege from discovery for reports created by peer-review committees in hospital investigations

To improve the quality of care provided in hospitals and reduce morbidity and mortality among hospital patients, the Michigan legislature passed MCL 333.21513(d), which imposes a duty on hospitals to create peer-review committees to candidly assess hospital practices.  To facilitate this type of assessment, the Legislature also passed MCL 333.20175(8) and MCL 333.21515, which shield the records, data, and knowledge collected for or by these peer-review committees from disclosure.  In Krusac v. Covenant Medical Center, Inc., No. 149270, the Michigan Supreme Court considered whether there existed an exception to this protection to allow for the discovery of objective facts contained within these reports.  Vacating the order of the trial court, the Supreme Court held that the statute does not contain such an exception and remanded the case for further proceedings.
John Krusac, as personal representative of the estate of Dorothy Krusac, brought a medical malpractice action against Covenant Medical Center, Inc., alleging that Dorothy Krusac died as a result of injuries sustained after rolling off an operating table following a cardiac catheterization procedure.  During discovery, it became known that one of the medical personnel had filled out an incident report after the fall.  The plaintiff filed a motion in limine asking the court to inspect the incident report in camera and provide the plaintiff with the facts contained within it.  The trial court denied this motion on the ground that the peer-review privilege protected the report from discovery.  The plaintiff moved for reconsideration, and the court subsequently reviewed the report in camera and ordered the defendant to provide the plaintiff with a portion of the incident report that contained only objective facts.  This order was in accordance with Harrison v. Munson Healthcare, Inc., 304 Mich. App. 1 (2014), which held that the peer-review privilege does not apply to objective facts contained in an incident report.  The defendant moved for leave to appeal and also to stay the proceedings.  Both motions, while denied by the Court of Appeals, were ultimately granted by the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court held that there is no statutory exception to the peer-review privilege and, to the extent that Harrison upheld such an exception, overruled that portion of the case inconsistent with its opinion as wrongly decided.  The Supreme Court vacated the trial court’s order and remanded the case to the trial court for further proceedings.

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