Morris v. Metriyakool

Decision Date01 March 1984
Docket NumberDocket Nos. 67480,68208,10,Nos. 9,s. 9
Citation344 N.W.2d 736,418 Mich. 423
PartiesDelores M. MORRIS, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Dr. S. METRIYAKOOL and South Macomb Hospital, Defendants-Appellees, Diane JACKSON, Plaintiff-Appellee, and Cross-Appellant, v. DETROIT MEMORIAL HOSPITAL and Dr. Bloom, D.D.S., Jointly and Severally, Defendants-Appellants, and Cross-Appellees. Calendar418 Mich. 423, 344 N.W.2d 736
CourtMichigan Supreme Court

Lopatin, Miller, Freedman, Bluestone, Erlich, Rosen & Bartnick by Steven G. Silverman, Detroit, for plaintiff-appellant.

Kitch, Suhrheinrich, Smith Saurbier & Drutchas, P.C., Detroit, for defendants-appellants and cross-appellees and for South Macomb Hospital.

Stephen M. Kelley, Gregory G. Drutchas, Detroit, for defendants-appellants and cross-appellees.

Donald A. Ducastel, Detroit, for South Macomb Hospital.

Schureman, Frakes, Glass & Wulfmeier by Edward C. Reynolds, Jr., Detroit, for Dr. S. Metriyakool.

Nederlander, Dodge & McCauley, P.C. by Victor T. Adamo and Patrick B. McCauley, Detroit, for amicus curiae.

Kerr, Russell & Weber by A. Stewart Kerr and Daniel G. Beyer, Detroit, for amicus curiae Wayne County Medical Society and Michigan State Medical Society.

KAVANAGH, Justice.

These cases concern arbitration of medical malpractice claims. The most significant issue presented is whether the malpractice arbitration act of 1975, M.C.L. Sec. 600.5040 et seq.; M.S.A. Sec. 27A.5040 et seq., deprives plaintiffs of constitutional rights to an impartial decisionmaker. We hold that it does not.

Plaintiff Diane Jackson was treated in November, 1977, at defendant Detroit Memorial Hospital by defendant Dr. William J. Bloom for a dental malady. At that time, plaintiff agreed to submit to arbitration "any claims or disputes (except for disputes over charges for services rendered) which may arise in the future out of or in connection with the health care rendered to me * * * by this hospital, its employees and those of its independent staff doctors and consultants who have agreed to arbitrate". In August, 1979, plaintiff brought action for malpractice against defendants in the Wayne Circuit Court. Defendants moved for accelerated judgment, on the basis of the agreement to arbitrate. After a hearing, the court found the act constitutional and, finding no duress, mistake, or incompetency in the execution of the agreement, granted defendants' motion.

The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that M.C.L. Sec. 600.5044(2); M.S.A. Sec. 27A.5044(2) violates the constitutional guarantee of due process by " 'forcing the litigant to submit his or her claim to a tribunal which is composed in such a way that a high probability exists that such tribunal will be biased against the claimant without mandating the use of an arbitration form explicitly detailing the nature of the panel's makeup' ". Jackson v. Detroit Memorial Hospital, 110 Mich.App. 202, 204, 312 N.W.2d 212 (1981), quoting Morris v. Metriyakool, 107 Mich.App. 110, 134, 309 N.W.2d 910 (1981) (Bronson, J., dissenting in part and concurring in part ). The court also held that the arbitration agreement is not a contract of adhesion and that on the present facts, it is not unconscionable. Defendants applied for leave to appeal, and plaintiffs sought leave to cross-appeal, which we granted. 412 Mich. 885 (1981).

In the second case before us, plaintiff Delores M. Morris was admitted to defendant South Memorial Hospital on November 9, 1976. At the time of her admission, plaintiff executed an agreement similar to the one executed by plaintiff Jackson to arbitrate any claims against defendant hospital and defendant Dr. S. Metriyakool arising out of her treatment for a hysterectomy. Subsequently, plaintiff brought suit against defendants alleging negligence in the surgical procedure, which caused her to develop peritonitis, and negligence in failing to promptly diagnose and treat the condition. Defendants each moved to submit plaintiff's claims to arbitration in accordance with the agreement. The trial court dismissed plaintiff's complaint with prejudice, but without prejudice to her right to file a claim for arbitration.

The Court of Appeals rejected plaintiff's argument that the composition of the arbitration panel was unconstitutionally biased. It also held that the act does not unconstitutionally or unconscionably deprive a patient of a meaningful opportunity to decide whether to relinquish access to a court and a jury trial. The Court further held that the agreement was not a contract of adhesion. Judge Bronson dissented from the holding of constitutionality. Morris v. Metriyakool, supra. We granted plaintiff's application for leave to appeal. 412 Mich. 884 (1981).

The malpractice arbitration act provides that a patient "may, if offered, execute an agreement to arbitrate a dispute, controversy, or issue arising out of health care or treatment by a health care provider", M.C.L. Sec. 600.5041(1); M.S.A. Sec. 27A.5041(1), or by a hospital, M.C.L. Sec. 600.5042(1); M.S.A. Sec. 27A.5042(1). A patient executing such an agreement with a health-care provider may revoke it within 60 days after execution, M.C.L. Sec. 600.5041(3); M.S.A. Sec. 27A.5041(3), or, in the case of a hospital, within 60 days after discharge, M.C.L. Sec. 600.5042(3); M.S.A. Sec. 27A.5042(3), options which must be stated in the agreement. All such agreements must provide in 12-point boldface type immediately above the space for the parties' signatures that agreement to arbitrate is not a prerequisite to the receipt of health care. M.C.L. Secs. 600.5041(5), 600.5042(4); M.S.A. Secs. 27A.5041(5), 27A.5042(4).

For those who have elected arbitration, the act requires a three-member panel composed of an attorney, who shall be chairperson, a physician, preferably from the respondent's medical specialty, and a person who is not a licensee of the health care profession, involved, a lawyer, or a representative of a hospital or an insurance company. M.C.L. Sec. 600.5044(2); M.S.A. Sec. 27A.5044(2). Where the claim is against a hospital only, a hospital administrator may be substituted for the physician. If the claim is against a health-care provider other than a physician, a licensee of the health-care profession involved shall be substituted.

Defendants Detroit Memorial Hospital and Dr. Bloom appeal from the holding that the presence of the medical member unconstitutionally created a biased panel. First, they argue that because the state does not compel arbitration, but only regulates it, state action is not involved.

A basic requirement of due process is a "fair trial in a fair tribunal". In re Murchison, 349 U.S. 133, 136, 75 S.Ct. 623, 625, 99 L.Ed. 942 (1955); Withrow v. Larkin, 421 U.S. 35, 46, 95 S.Ct. 1456, 1464, 43 L.Ed.2d 712 (1975). Essential to this notion is a fair and impartial decisionmaker. Crampton v. Dep't of State, 395 Mich. 347, 351, 235 N.W.2d 352 (1975). The Due Process Clause, U.S. Const., Am. XIV; Const.1963, art. 1, Sec. 17, limits state action. Dow v. State of Michigan, 396 Mich. 192, 202, 240 N.W.2d 450 (1976). Private conduct abridging individual rights does not implicate the Due Process Clause unless to some significant extent the state, in any of its manifestations, has been found to have become involved in it, see Burton v. Wilmington Parking Authority, 365 U.S. 715, 81 S.Ct. 856, 6 L.Ed.2d 45 (1961), or to have compelled the conduct, Flagg Brothers, Inc. v. Brooks, 436 U.S. 149, 164, 98 S.Ct. 1729, 1737, 56 L.Ed.2d 185 (1978). See also Jackson v. Metropolitan Edison Co., 419 U.S. 345, 95 S.Ct. 449, 42 L.Ed.2d 477 (1974).

We find it unnecessary, however, to determine here whether the state has significantly involved itself in the challenged action because, even if we were to find so, we have concluded that the composition of the arbitration panel does not offend guarantees of due process.

In holding the act unconstitutional, the Court of Appeals in Jackson agreed with Judge Bronson's partial dissent in Morris that the arbitration panel presents too high a probability of actual bias to be constitutionally tolerable. In his partial dissent in Morris, Judge Bronson found the statute creating the panel unconstitutional because the medical member of the arbitration panel had such an interest in the outcome that there is too great a risk that he will not be impartial. Judge Bronson cited two affidavits submitted in Morris from malpractice insurance underwriters. They averred that any hospital administrator or physician would have a direct and substantial interest in the outcome of arbitrated cases because the cost and availability of medical malpractice insurance would be affected. Judge Bronson also said that the act in question is supported by health care professionals, which indicates that they believe they will fare better under this type of system. He also concluded that anti-plaintiff attitudes exist among large numbers of doctors. "Their 'function and frame of reference' may be expected to make them partisans of their professional colleagues." Morris, 107 Mich.App. 129, 309 N.W.2d 910 (Bronson, J., dissenting in part and concurring in part).

No showing of actual bias on the part of a particular arbitration panel is claimed, the parties having appealed from motions for accelerated judgment and no arbitration panel having been convened. That does not prevent a party from claiming that the risk of actual bias is too high to be constitutionally tolerable. "[O]ur system of law has always endeavored to prevent even the probability of unfairness." Murchison, supra, 349 U.S. 136, 75 S.Ct. 625. "In pursuit of this end, various situations have been identified in which experience teaches that the probability of actual bias on the part of the judge or decisionmaker is too high to be constitutionally tolerable." Withrow, supra, 421 U.S. 47, 95 S.Ct. 1464. Included in those situations is that of a decisionmaker who has a...

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