Michigan court says MDs can sue for unfair peer review

November 1, 2006

Thanks to a ruling by Michigan's Supreme Court, physicians in the state may now sue hospitals and peer review committees for wrongful peer review. The high court's ruling overturns almost 25-year-old case law, which kept courts from getting involved in hospitals' staffing decisions because of its lack of expertise. As a result, physicians' claims of unfair peer review were often rejected.

Thanks to a ruling by Michigan's Supreme Court, physicians in the state may now sue hospitals and peer review committees for wrongful peer review. The high court's ruling overturns almost 25-year-old case law, which kept courts from getting involved in hospitals' staffing decisions because of its lack of expertise. As a result, physicians' claims of unfair peer review were often rejected.

Now, this latest ruling opens the door for such claims. According to American Medical News (9/18/2006), the justices recognized that the state's immunity statute does not extend to hospitals and does not protect peer review committees that act with malice, defined as a "reckless disregard of the truth." It added that peer review committees are not protected if they perform evaluations of staff without a focus on improving patient care.

The ruling stems from a case in which Michigan internist Bruce Feyz, MD, claimed that he had been denied a fair peer review hearing. After noticing medication errors, Feyz directed the nursing staff to verbally obtain and record specific information on an incoming patient's medication use. The hospital disapproved of the order and told the nursing staff to disregard it. The hospital then initiated peer review proceedings against Feyz for failure to complete medical records and going against hospital policy. It ultimately placed him on indefinite probation. Feyz sued.