Velez v. Tuma (Opinion)Annotate this Case
In this joint and several liability medical malpractice case, Defendant Dr. Martin Tuma sought a reduction of the final judgment rendered against him by the amount of his codefendants' settlement. The issue before the Supreme Court concerned the common-law "setoff rule," whereby a jointly and severally liable tortfeasor is entitled to a setoff from any adverse verdict in the amount of the cotortfeasor's settlement, and the noneconomic damages cap of MCL 600.1483, which limits a medical malpractice plaintiff's recovery of noneconomic damages. Both the circuit court and Court of Appeals held pursuant to "Markley v Oak Health Care Investors of Coldwater, Inc." that the common-law setoff rule applied and that the setoff must be applied to the jury's verdict before application of the cap on noneconomic damages. Upon review, the Supreme Court agreed with the lower courts that "Markley" was correctly decided and thus held that the Legislature did not abolish the common-law setoff rule in the context of joint and several liability medical malpractice cases. "[The Court affirmed] the Court of Appeals in this regard and further clarif[ed] that where the Legislature has retained principles of joint and several liability, the common-law setoff rule applie[d]. The lower courts' sequencing of the setoff and the noneconomic damages cap, however, result[ed]in an outcome contrary to the Legislature's requirement that medical malpractice plaintiffs 'shall not' recover more noneconomic losses than the amount determined by MCL 600.1483. . . . Because application of the setoff to the jury's verdict can result in a recovery beyond those statutorily mandated damages limitations," the Court held further that a joint tortfeasor's settlement must be set off from the final judgment after application of the noneconomic damages cap of MCL 600.1483, as well as the collateral source rule.