Sherri Martin underwent surgery performed by Dr. David Rynbrandt at Northern Michigan Hospital. Seven days later, Dr. Jeffrey Beaudoin, the hospital’s chief of surgery, was contacted by a nurse who advised him that Martin’s condition was deteriorating. Beaudoin performed emergency surgery. According to Martin, her doctors and nurses should have recognized her deteriorating condition much earlier, within 72 hours of the surgery.
Martin sued Rynbrandt, his professional corporation, and Northern Michigan Hospital, among others. Martin’s expert witnesses included a nurse, who testified at a deposition in support of Martin’s negligence claims against the hospital. The hospital’s nurses should have done a better job of monitoring Martin and should have reported her deteriorating condition to Rynbrandt as the attending physician, the nursing expert stated. Moreover, the expert testified, the nurses should have encouraged Rynbrandt to take action regarding Martin’s condition, and should have gone up the “chain of command” if Rynbrandt had failed to act.
Martin settled the case with all the defendants except the hospital. After the partial settlement, the hospital moved for summary disposition, stating that the case must be dismissed as a matter of law. The nurses were not negligent, the hospital contended; more importantly for summary disposition purposes, the nurses’ alleged failures in reporting did not make any difference in Martin’s treatment because neither Rynbrandt nor Beaudoin would have done anything differently if the nurses had performed as Martin alleged they should have performed. The motion was supported by affidavits from Rynbrandt and Beaudoin. In opposition to the hospital’s summary disposition motion, plaintiff presented deposition testimony of her two nursing expert and another expert, a general surgeon.
The trial court granted the hospital’s summary disposition motion on the grounds that Martin could not establish that the nurses’ alleged negligence caused her injuries. Rynbrandt’s affidavit addressed all of the specific claims of nursing malpractice raised in Martin’s complaint, the court noted, and the doctor maintained, as to each claim, that there was nothing that the nurses could have done differently that would have altered his care and treatment of Martin.
Martin appealed to the Court of Appeals, which affirmed in a published per curiam opinion. The Court of Appeals held that there was no evidence showing that Martin’s treatment would have been changed if better reporting by nurses had occurred. “[T]he facts simply do not support plaintiff’s claim that the nurses’ failure to report was a cause in fact of the injuries she suffered as a result of her postsurgical treatment,” and a finding of causation based on the facts would be “mere speculation” at best, the panel said. Martin appeals.