Sunday, January 12, 2014

"Avoidable Consequences" Doctrine Prevents Recovery For Jehovah's Witness Death

In Braverman v. Granger, (MI App., Jan. 9, 2014), a Michigan appeals court held that the doctrine of "avoidable consequences" prevents recovery in a wrongful death medical malpractice suit brought by the personal representative of a deceased Jehovah's Witness woman who refused a blood transfusion that was needed to deal with complications from a kidney transplant.  The court rejected a test that would look to whether refusing a blood transfusion was subjectively reasonable in light of a person's religious beliefs, saying that this test would require the trier of fact  to decide either the reasonableness of a person's religion or of her decision to follow her religious beliefs in the face of death. The court held that instead "the proper inquiry is whether the blood transfusion was an objectively reasonable means to avoid or minimize damages following the person’s original injury...."

In a concurring opinion, Judge Boonstra added:
I write separately only to emphasize that our opinion should not be interpreted as reflective of any viewpoint regarding religion generally or any particular religious belief or expression. To the contrary, it is reflective of the spirit of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, and its guarantee of every person’s right to freely exercise the religious beliefs and expressions of his or her choice, without governmental interference.
AP reports on the decision.