Fraudulent Concealment by Nonfeasance as an Exception to the Statute of Repose

By Alex Stein

As a general rule, malpractice suits against physicians and hospitals must be filed within the repose period that starts running on the day of the alleged malpractice. Expiration of that period kills the plaintiff’s suit regardless of whether she was able to file it on time. Unlike statutes of limitations, this absolute time-bar does not depend on the accrual of the plaintiff’s cause of action nor is it subject to the discovery rule and equitable tolling. Typically, states recognize only one exception to the statute of repose: fraudulent concealment. Under that exception, when a negligent doctor or hospital intentionally gives the aggrieved patient (or her successor) false or misleading information about the treatment, the patient (or her successor) becomes entitled to toll the repose period until she becomes aware of the true facts. Many courts have ruled that this exception was only available to plaintiffs who could establish affirmative misrepresentation on the part of the doctor or the hospital. According to these decisions, fraud capable of tolling the repose period could only be committed by misfeasance, that is, by active conduct rather than by failure to disclose the relevant facts. More recent court decisions, however, obliterate the omission-commission distinction in the context of fraudulent concealment by doctors and hospitals: see, e.g., DeLuna v. Burciaga, 857 N.E.2d 229, 245-46 (Ill. 2006).

A recent decision of Michigan’s Court of Appeals, In re Estate of Doyle, 2016 WL 857204 (Mich.App.2016), continues this trend. Continue reading

The Peer Review Privilege: No Exception for Objective Facts

By Alex Stein

The Michigan Supreme Court’s recent decision in Krusac v. Covenant Medical Center, Inc., — N.W.2d —- (Mich. 2015), 2015 WL 1809371, foiled an attempt at establishing an “objective fact” exception to the peer review privilege.  An elderly hospital patient allegedly rolled off the operating table, fell on the floor, and died shortly thereafter. As part of the hospital’s peer review procedure, one of the nurses compiled an incident report and submitted it to her superiors. The plaintiff in the ensuing wrongful death action subpoenaed that report. The trial judge ruled that the plaintiff was entitled to see the report’s first page that summarized the facts of the incident. The hospital appealed all the way to Michigan’s Supreme Court to vindicate its rights under the state’s peer review privilege, MCL 333.20175(8) & MCL 333.21515, that extends to “records, data, and knowledge collected for or by individuals or committees assigned a professional review function in a health facility or agency, or an institution of higher education in this state that has colleges of osteopathic and human medicine.” These information items are  “confidential, … are not public records, and are not subject to court subpoena.” Continue reading