Medical Malpractice and Personal Injury Law Blog

Convicted U.S. Gymnastics Physician Says His Case Should Have Been Based on Medical Malpractice

Posted by Briggs Bedigian | Feb 11, 2019 | 0 Comments

Dr. Larry Nassar is currently serving a minimum 40-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to sexually abusing many girls. He was the USA Gymnastics team doctor at the time and an associate professor at Michigan State University (MSU). In a recent interview with an investigator, Nassar stated that his case should have been a civil matter of medical malpractice rather than a criminal matter. The interview was intended to reveal if MSU administrators had intentional withheld key evidence in the case. Nassar stated that he only pled guilty because he had lost “support from the medical community” and others. He further insisted that all his actions were done “for medical purposes” only.

Nassar's Medical Background

Nassar obtained a Bachelor's Degree in kinesiology from the University of Michigan. He received his medical degree from MSU. Nassar was eventually named as national medical coordinator for USA Gymnastics while still working at MSU. The investigation has led to the interviewing of over 500 people. Three other key administrators at MSU have also been charged for related actions amid the investigation.

MSU Accused of Hindering Investigation

Officials with MSU have since faced many allegations of trying to mislead and hinder the work of investigators. They have allegedly withheld key documents that investigators want access to and have provided them with far too many unrelated documents. MSU has previously relied on attorney-client privilege as a reason why some records could not be released. Investigators say that they are still seeking many potentially revealing text messages and emails.

University Response

An MSU spokesman has recently responded to the concerns. The statement acknowledges that Larry Nassar committed crimes that hurt many individuals. In recent months, the school has directed significant efforts toward campus safety. The school explains that after interviewing hundreds of people and reviewing millions of documents that it appears there are no more criminal acts to discover. The school states that the failures were the result of “people, not policy” and that they are now looking toward the future.

Medical Malpractice in Michigan

Michigan law allows for claims of medical malpractice involving healthcare providers. They define healthcare providers very broadly and include chiropractors, nurses, physical therapists, and social workers. In determining negligence among parties the state uses a “modified” comparative fault model. The court will allocate any percentages of the total fault among plaintiffs and defendants in a case. These percentages represent how much negligence the party contributed. In this system, a plaintiff is only able to pursue damages if their allocation of negligence is under 50%. For example, if the plaintiff is found to be 10% at fault, then any award received would be reduced by this 10%.

Limitations (Caps) on Damage Awards

Legislators have imposed limitations (caps) on the monetary amounts of noneconomic damages that may be recovered in these cases. Noneconomic damages are those that often are difficult to clearly quantify, such as pain, suffering, and mental anguish. The maximum amount that a plaintiff may obtain for such damages is $280,000. There are some exceptions that allow for an increased cap of $500,000 that are as follows:

  • The victim has lost a limb(s), such as someone who is paraplegic
  • A brain injury was sustained
  • The injuries involve the spinal cord
  • The injury has resulted in the plaintiff being unable to function independently
  • The injured party is no longer able to perform routine daily tasks
  • Injuries sustained have rendered the individual unable to procreate, such as permanent impairment to reproductive organs

About the Author

Briggs Bedigian

H. Briggs Bedigian (“Briggs”) is a founding partner of Gilman & Bedigian, LLC.  Prior to forming Gilman & Bedigian, LLC, Briggs was a partner at Wais, Vogelstein and Bedigian, LLC, where he was the head of the firm's litigation practice.  Briggs' legal practice is focused on representing clients involved in medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury cases. 

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