The Michigan Court of Appeals recently reversed the order of summary disposition granted to a defendant driver and Progressive Insurance in an action for third-party no-fault benefits following a car accident.On May 9, 2011, in the City of Bingham Farms, the plaintiff was driving southbound on Telegraph Road when he was struck by the defendant, whose vehicle “entered the wrong turnaround on Telegraph Road,” “failed to yield to oncoming traffic,” drove in front of the plaintiff’s vehicle, and caused a collision. The plaintiff, with his wife, filed a three-count complaint on May 9, 2014 against the driver and Progressive jointly and severally, alleging claims of negligence, underinsured motorist coverage, and loss of consortium resulting from the May 9, 2011 motor vehicle accident. Both defendants answered the complaint, and discovery ensued. Motions for summary disposition followed.
The husband of a woman killed by robotic machinery at her factory job is suing for wrongful death. The federal lawsuit seeks $75,000 from the companies linked to the equipment. (Pursuant to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, federal courts can hear cases between citizens of different states only when the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75,000. (28 U.S.C. § 1332(a).)) The case raises the strange but increasingly relevant question of who should be held liable when robots injure or kill human staff.The victim was killed in July 2015 at Ventra Iona Main, an auto parts factory where she worked. Ventra Iona performs stamping of bumpers as well as welding, and it was recently fined by the state for workplace violations preceding the victim’s death. For 12 years, the victim made a good living and supported her husband as a journeyman maintenance mechanic for Ventra. She was succeeding in a male-dominated industry and carved out a specialty of fixing robots when things went wrong.
The Michigan Court of Appeals recently affirmed an order of the circuit court granting summary disposition in favor of a defendant club owner in a case involving a physical fight at the defendant’s strip club.After a fight broke out between two of the club’s dancers, a bouncer became involved in the altercation, assisting in separating the combatants and bystanders. He worked at the club as a part-time bouncer but was present in the club as a patron at the time of the altercation. The plaintiff was performing as a dancer at the time and was a bystander to the altercation. She sustained an injury to her arm, which she alleged was caused by the bouncer when he seized her and pushed her into a doorway in the process of breaking up the fight. The plaintiff based her claim against the defendant club owner on a theory of vicarious liability for the bouncer’s conduct while he was acting within the scope of his employment with the defendant. She also alleged a claim involving negligent hiring and employment.
Over 1,700 Flint residents have filed suit against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The class action lawsuit accuses Flint officials of negligently mismanaging the city’s water crisis. The lawsuit comes just as President Trump plans to eviscerate the budget of the EPA. The plaintiff class filed suit in U.S. District Court in Michigan.The water crisis originated in 2014 after the city switched its water source from Lake Huron to the Flint River and failed to ensure that corrosion inhibitors were used to stop leaching into Flint’s pipes. The crisis has resulted in a large number of lawsuits that could cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in damages. According to experts, the only “deep pocket” near Flint is the State of Michigan. The crisis could therefore become a tax liability for Michigan citizens. According to a report published by the Senate Fiscal Agency, the state of Michigan paid roughly $41.8 million in verdicts and settlements in the last fiscal year.
A plaintiff appealed a trial court’s order granting summary disposition to a defendant fruit market after the plaintiff tripped over a landscaping tool in the defendant’s store. The Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court’s judgment.The appeals court began by outlining Michigan’s premises liability law. In a premises liability action, a plaintiff must prove the elements of negligence: (1) the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty, (2) the defendant breached that duty, (3) the breach was the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injury, and (4) the plaintiff suffered damages. Typically, a landowner owes a duty to use reasonable care to protect invitees from unreasonable risks of harm posed by dangerous conditions on the owner’s land. A landowner may be liable for breaching this duty if it is aware of a dangerous condition but fails to fix the defect, guard against the defect, or warn the invitee of the defect. However, it is well-settled that a landowner’s duty to protect does not extend to dangers that are open and obvious.
A man was injured when his truck was struck from behind by a police cruiser driven by the defendant, an employee of Charter Township of Genesee. The plaintiff had been attempting to make a left turn and apparently was using his turn signal when the defendant, who had been following him, attempted to pass him on the left. The defendant moved for summary disposition, arguing that the plaintiff did not sustain a serious impairment of a body function that affected his general ability to live his normal life and that their conduct did not amount to gross negligence. The trial court granted the motion. The appeals court reversed and remanded, finding the trial court’s conclusion that the defendant was not grossly negligent to be unconvincing.Pursuant to MCL 691.1407(2), the defendant would be immune from tort liability unless his conduct “amount[ed] to gross negligence that [was] the proximate cause of the injury or damage.” He claimed that he believed the plaintiff was pulling off the road to the right, whereas the plaintiff claimed he had properly activated his left turn signal. Given the critical question of fact, the appeals court could not “conceive of how defendants ha[d] the chutzpah” to contend that the defendant’s conduct was anything but so blatantly reckless as to demonstrate a substantial lack of concern for whether an injury would result.
The Michigan Court of Appeals recently held that the lower court erroneously granted summary judgment to the defendants following the plaintiff’s fall at the defendants’ home, reasoning that the conflicting evidence regarding whether the dangerous condition was open and obvious should be sent to a jury.One evening in December 2013, the plaintiff attended a dinner party at the defendants’ home. The home includes a hallway that leads from the front door to the living room and dining room area. There are two rooms on each side of the hallway, a bathroom and a mud room. There is an approximately eight-inch drop-off as one steps into the mud room from the hallway. The plaintiff went to put her purse in the mud room and fell upon entry as a result of the drop-off. She was injured and filed suit. The defendants moved for summary disposition, arguing that the drop-off was open and obvious, and therefore, they had no duty to warn the plaintiff of its existence. The trial court granted the defendants’ motion. The plaintiff appealed.
Kristy Bastine, a Westland police officer, sued the city of Dearborn Heights, the city of Southfield, and Dearborn Heights Police Officer Tim Ciochon after being injured while participating in SWAT training in 2012. In a recent decision, the Michigan Court of Appeals upheld the lower court’s grant of summary disposition to the defendants, reasoning that the statutory firefighter rule barred the plaintiffs’ claims.In 2012, Kristy became a member of Westland’s SWAT team. During the subsequent SWAT training, the trainees were told to quickly get into a general purpose vehicle (GPV), a heavy-duty assault vehicle driven by Ciochon. Kristy testified that when she entered the vehicle, she looked for a seat belt but could not find one. Although the testimony of the witnesses varied, the evidence indicated that shortly before returning to the starting point, the GPV hit an object, probably a tree stump. The impact caused Kristy to fly off her seat, hit the roof with the back of her helmet, fall forward, and hit her chin and teeth on something inside the GPV. She was later diagnosed with a spinal fracture and traumatic brain injury.
In April 2014, plaintiff David Alvarez plummeted from a rock climbing wall at LifeTime Fitness Center in Novi, Michigan. Alvarez had taken his family to the center. Neither his wife nor daughter had climbed before, and everyone signed a waiver releasing Lifetime from liability for negligence. Alvarez fell from the climbing wall because his harness was on backwards and was hooked incorrectly to the belay system. Shortly thereafter, he filed suit in Oakland County Circuit Court.Alvarez suffered numerous injuries to his legs and back during the fall. In the lawsuit, he argued that the LifeTime employee was “grossly negligent” in failing to determine whether Alvarez had correctly fastened his harness and belay system before instructing Alvarez to climb. Once he had reached the top of the wall, Alvarez asked the employee how to get down and was told: “just let go.” After letting go, the harness failed and Alvarez fell to the ground, seriously injuring himself.
Plaintiff Robert Florian suffered a severe leg injury while working as a logger. A magistrate determined that he was entitled to workers’ compensation benefits because he suffered a disability in the course of his employment. Rather than considering whether the magistrate’s decision was supported by the evidence, the Michigan Compensation Appellate Commission (MCAC) employed de novo review and reversed the magistrate’s award of benefits beyond March 2010. The Michigan Appeals Court held that despite the court’s use of an incorrect standard, the MCAC correctly determined that Florian was an employee rather than an independent contractor and affirmed on that issue.The appeals court, however, reversed the portion of the MCAC’s opinion concluding that Florian failed to establish a prima facie case of disability under relevant case law. The appeals court also reversed the MCAC’s ruling that limited Florian’s benefits. However, the MCAC aptly determined that remand to the magistrate for the recalculation of Florian’s applicable wage was required. As a result, the appeals court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded to the magistrate for further proceedings.