SHERRI MARTIN V DAVID LEDINGHAM MDAnnotate this Case
STATE OF MICHIGAN
COURT OF APPEALS
January 27, 2009
Emmet Circuit Court
LC No. 05-009021-NH
DAVID LEDINGHAM, M.D., DAVID
RYNBRANDT, M.D., ANDRIS KAZMERS,
M.D., and PETOSKEY SURGEONS, P.C.,
Advance Sheets Version
NORTHERN MICHIGAN HOSPITAL,
Before: Talbot, P.J., and Bandstra and Murray, JJ.
Plaintiff appeals as of right the trial court’s order granting summary disposition to
Northern Michigan Hospital (defendant). This case arises from a surgical procedure performed
on plaintiff and the care that followed. Plaintiff alleges that defendant’s nurses were negligent in
their failure to report her worsening postsurgical condition to physicians and that this negligence
was the proximate cause of her injuries. We conclude that, because there was no evidence
showing that plaintiff’s treatment would have been changed if better reporting had occurred, the
trial court properly granted summary disposition. We have decided this appeal without oral
argument pursuant to MCR 7.214(E).
Following the voluntary dismissal of the doctors who were sued in this case, defendant
moved for summary disposition. It relied on affidavits from Dr. David Rynbrandt and Dr.
Jeffrey Beaudoin stating that they would not have changed the course of plaintiff’s treatment had
nurses employed by defendant informed them of plaintiff’s condition as plaintiff alleged they
should have. Thus, defendant argued, plaintiff could not show that the alleged negligence of
defendant’s nurses was the proximate cause of her injuries. The trial court agreed and granted
On appeal, plaintiff contends that summary disposition was inappropriate because she
had produced evidence showing that, had the nurses properly reported, a notified doctor would
have had the duty to change plaintiff’s treatment. So, plaintiff argues, the affidavits of Dr.
Rynbrandt and Dr. Beaudoin do not preclude plaintiff from presenting her failure-to-report
theory to a jury. Additionally, plaintiff contends that those doctors’ affidavits involved issues of
credibility and state of mind and that summary disposition was not appropriate in light of those
issues. We disagree.
We review de novo a trial court’s decision on a motion for summary disposition. Latham
v Barton Malow Co, 480 Mich 105, 111; 746 NW2d 868 (2008). This Court must review the
record in the same manner as the trial court to determine whether the movant was entitled to
judgment as a matter of law. Scalise v Boy Scouts of America, 265 Mich App 1, 10; 692 NW2d
Summary disposition of all or part of a claim or defense may be granted when, “[e]xcept
as to the amount of damages, there is no genuine issue as to any material fact, and the moving
party is entitled to judgment or partial judgment as a matter of law.” MCR 2.116(C)(10). When
deciding a motion for summary disposition under MCR 2.116(C)(10), a court must consider the
pleadings, affidavits, depositions, admissions, and other documentary evidence submitted, MCR
2.116(G)(5), in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, Corley v Detroit Bd of Ed, 470
Mich 274, 278; 681 NW2d 342 (2004), and all reasonable inferences must be drawn in favor of
the nonmovant, Scalise, supra at 10. The party opposing the motion must show that a genuine
issue of disputed fact exists by producing evidentiary materials setting forth specific facts. MCR
2.116(G)(4); AFSCME v Detroit, 267 Mich App 255, 261; 704 NW2d 712 (2005). The disputed
factual issue must be material to the dispositive legal claims. Auto Club Ins Ass’n v State
Automobile Mut Ins Co, 258 Mich App 328, 333; 671 NW2d 132 (2003). Speculation and
conjecture are insufficient to create an issue of material fact. Ghaffari v Turner Constr Co (On
Remand), 268 Mich App 460, 464; 708 NW2d 448 (2005).
Proof of causation requires both cause in fact and legal, or proximate, cause. Haliw v
Sterling Hts, 464 Mich 297, 310; 627 NW2d 581 (2001). Cause in fact generally requires a
showing that “but for” the defendant’s actions, the plaintiff’s injury would not have occurred.
Craig v Oakwood Hosp, 471 Mich 67, 86-87; 684 NW2d 296 (2004). Cause in fact may be
established by circumstantial evidence, but, to be adequate, such evidence must give rise to
reasonable inferences of causation, not mere speculation. Skinner v Square D Co, 445 Mich 153,
163-164; 516 NW2d 475 (1994).
As cause-in-fact evidence, plaintiff presented deposition testimony from both a doctor
and a nurse suggesting that the standard of care required defendant’s nurses to provide earlier
and better reports regarding plaintiff’s postsurgical condition, both to the operating surgeon and
up the chain of command beyond that physician if no appropriate action was taken. The doctor
further testified that, had that occurred, a different course of treatment should have been
undertaken that would have prevented or mitigated plaintiff’s injuries.
This evidence was insufficient to create a genuine issue on factual causation because it
only concerned what hypothetical doctors should have done had better reports been provided.1
In contrast to that, the real doctors involved with plaintiff’s care testified about what they would
actually have done had they received the nurse reports plaintiff claims should have been made.
Dr. Rynbrandt, who had performed the surgery on plaintiff, was aware of postsurgical
complications shortly thereafter and took steps to address them. Plaintiff’s claim is that
defendant’s nurses should have done more to inform Rynbrandt about further developments in
the complications. However, in his affidavit, Rynbrandt repeatedly stated that he had ample
information regarding plaintiff and her situation throughout the period during which plaintiff
alleges care was deficient, that he reviewed plaintiff’s chart and was otherwise adequately
apprised of developments, and that nothing the nurses could have done differently would have
altered the care that he provided plaintiff.
Similarly, there is no factual support for plaintiff’s claim that, had defendant’s nurses
gone up the chain of command to someone with higher authority, a better course of treatment
would have been provided. Dr. Beaudoin was the chair of the general surgery section at the
hospital, with authority over Dr. Rynbrandt. Dr. Beaudoin became involved with plaintiff’s care
about a week after the initial surgery and ultimately performed a second operation to address her
complications. He testified by affidavit that, had he been called into the case earlier as plaintiff
alleges the nurses should have done, he would have examined plaintiff and discussed her care
with Rynbrandt. However, Dr. Beaudoin further testified that his earlier involvement would
have yielded no additional information not already available to Dr. Rynbrandt and that he would
not have suggested or requested any change in the care or treatment being provided by Dr.
In sum, the facts presented in this case demonstrate that, had defendant’s nurses made the
reports plaintiff alleges they should have, plaintiff’s care and treatment would not have been
changed whatsoever. Thus, the 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. The facts did not establish a “reasonable inference[ ] of causation,” and a finding of
causation from these facts would be “mere speculation” at best. Skinner, supra at 164. We note
that courts in other states have similarly concluded that liability can be imposed for a failure to
adequately report to a physician only if the physician would have, in fact, altered a diagnosis or
treatment had a better or earlier report been received. See, e.g., Albain v Flower Hosp, 50 Ohio
St 3d 251, 265; 553 NE2d 1038 (1990) overruled on other grounds by Clark v Southview Hosp &
Family Health Ctr, 68 Ohio St 3d 435 (1994); Seef v Ingalls Mem Hosp, 311 Ill App 3d 7, 19-20;
724 NE2d 115 (1999).
Considering plaintiff’s hypothetical argument, we note that, had the doctors negligently failed
to change plaintiff’s treatment upon receiving better reports from defendant’s nurses, no liability
would be imposed on defendant as a result. Had all this occurred, those facts could well present
another theory of liability against the doctors, but, unlike the nurses, they are not agents of the
hospital. See Seef v Ingalls Mem Hosp, 311 Ill App 3d 7, 16; 724 NE2d 115 (1999).
Finally, we conclude that a fact-finder’s determination that there was cause in fact merely
because the fact-finder disbelieved the doctors involved would be exactly the kind of speculation
that Skinner disapproved in the absence of any affirmative cause-in-fact proof advanced by
plaintiff. See also MCR 2.116(G)(4) (indicating that plaintiff was required to “set forth specific
facts” in response to defendant’s summary disposition motion). We conclude that the trial court
properly granted defendant summary disposition under the principles explained by our Supreme
Court in Skinner.
In light of our resolution of this issue, we need not consider defendant’s other argument.
/s/ Michael J. Talbot
/s/ Richard A. Bandstra
/s/ Christopher M. Murray