Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Saltmarshall v. VHS Children's Hospital of Michigan, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

August 22, 2019

JAMES LEE SALTMARSHALL, Plaintiff,
v.
VHS CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL OF MICHIGAN, INC. and SCOTT LANGENBERG, Defendants.

          R. Steven Whalen Magistrate Judge

          OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION, VACATING IN PART OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT, GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT, DISMISSING AMENDED COMPLAINT, AND DISMISSING MOTIONS IN LIMINE AS MOOT

          DAVID M. LAWSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         In its last opinion and order, the Court dismissed much of plaintiff James Lee Saltmarshall's amended complaint, in which he alleged that he was wrongfully accused of sexually assaulting and murdering his infant daughter. See Saltmarshall v. Prime Healthcare Servs., ___F.Supp.3d___, 2019 WL 3213717 (E.D. Mich. July 11, 2019). The only surviving count was for defamation against a physician and his hospital. Those defendants have moved for reconsideration, contending that the doctor's false statements did not actually identify Saltmarshall as the murderer, and the doctor's statement, which was made to a police officer, was absolutely privileged under Michigan common law. The second argument, supported by caselaw that the defendants neglected to bring to the Court's attention in their earlier motion briefs, has merit. Therefore, the Court will grant reconsideration, grant summary judgment on the remaining claim, and dismiss the case.

         I.

         The facts of the case were discussed at length in the Court's opinion on the defendants' motion for summary judgment. See Saltmarshall, 2019 WL 3213717, at *1-11. The plaintiff was accused of sexually assaulting and murdering his infant daughter, Janiyah, based on, at least in part, statements made by defendant Dr. Scott Langenberg to Lt. Jeffrey Twardzik, a police officer for the City of Inkster. Janiyah had been transferred to Children's Hospital of Michigan in Detroit, where she was found to be in grave condition. Dr. Helene Tigchelaar examined her in the emergency room, placed her in critical care, and described her condition as an “apparent non-survivable injury.”

         Defendant Langenberg, who was present when resuscitation efforts initially were performed, was the doctor at Children's Hospital responsible for Janiyah's care while on the surgical service. Langenberg, who had met Lt. Twardzik at the hospital, later sent him a text message, which contained the false information upon which the defamation claim is based:

Baby has skull fractures, brain swelling on CT (likely will meet brain death criteria). Lung bruising, anterior anal laceration. We have some other studies pending.
This is non-accidental trauma. The perpetrator murdered this child.
Nice meeting you. Scott Scott Langenberg, M.D. Children's Hospital of Michigan

PageID.3741, 4158. Langenberg followed that message with another one the next morning asking if Janiyah's mom and dad were in custody.

         The defendants argued that Saltmarshall's state-law claims were barred by the immunity conferred by Michigan's Child Protection Law (CPL), which requires “a physician . . . who has reasonable cause to suspect child abuse or child neglect [to] make an immediate report . . . of the suspected child abuse or child neglect.” Mich. Comp. Laws § 722.623(1)(a). The CPL states that “[a] person acting in good faith who makes a report, cooperates in an investigation, or assists in any other requirement of this act is immune from civil or criminal liability that might otherwise be incurred by that action.” Mich. Comp. Laws § 722.625. The Court denied summary judgment to Dr. Langenberg (and therefore to Children's Hospital as well) because the evidence was sufficient to question his good faith when he made an accusation of murder:

A jury could conclude that he took an active role in encouraging prosecution, despite his lack of accurate evidence, medical or otherwise. He offered an opinion to the police that the child suffered “non-accidental trauma, ” falsely asserted that the infant had skull fractures when he had not even seen any imaging studies, and declared that the plaintiff “murdered this child, ” when she had not even been pronounced dead. He later acknowledged that no fractures were confirmed, based on a final x-ray reading, but he never informed Lt. Twardzik of that correct information. And when asked at his deposition why he thought Janiyah was murdered, Dr. Langenberg testified that he used the word in a “medical” sense, when there in fact is not any “medical sense” of that legal and colloquially inflammatory term. Finally, he took it upon himself the following morning to send another text to Lt. Twardzik, this time asking if Janiyah's mom and dad were in custody. There is enough evidence in the record at this stage of the proceedings to rebut the presumption that defendant Landenberg was acting in good faith when he interacted with the police in this case.

Saltmarshall, 2019 WL 3213717, at *21.

         The Court denied summary judgment on the claim of defamation per se because there were fact issues on all the ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.