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Michigan Supreme Court: Are the Scales Finally Tipping in Favor of Justice for Michigan Citizens?

Two recent 4-3 opinions would suggest that the recent election of Diane Marie Hathaway to the Michigan Supreme Court is paying dividends to the cause of justice in Michigan.

In one case, he Detroit News is reporting that the high court has ruled that a dead mother’s family can sue a hospital and doctors for $1.4 million in damages for loss of household services. Housework, cooking, caring for children, trash removal, etc. would qualify for damages under the ruling. Attorneys for Monroe, Michigan’s Mercy Memorial Hospital unsuccessfully argued at both the Court of Appeals level and the before the Supreme Court that “household services” are part of a non-economic recovery, thus lumped into legislatively capped, non-economic (as part of the ‘pain and suffering’ recovery) damages. Both courts said “no”, that household services are economic damages, thus not subject to the cap.

The “cap”, by the way, is part of legislative tort reform passed by conservatives during the John Engler administration. “Caps” on damages restrict juries and judges in dispensing justice in Michigan and keeps them from appropriately punishing the offenders. To merge economic issues into the non-economic cap would have caused an even greater injustice to an already unjust system in Michigan.

The family’s complaint had alleged that the deceased, Laurie Ann Greene, bled to death from the site of a Cesarean section, due to the hospital’s negligence.

In the other case
, also a 4-3 decision, the Detroit Free Press reports that the high court allowed a gunshot victim to sue a Detroit 911 operator for intentional infliction of emotional distress for asking the distressed caller if she was a “mental patient”. The caller had indicated that she had been shot in the head. After berating and insulting her, the operator finally did send police to the caller’s location. The police could not locate her and EMS arrived after the victims son, from his Minnesota location, called Detroit Police. The article does not mention what the legal controversy was. I would presume that there was a governmental immunity argument made here. Clearly, there was a breach of duty. 911 operators should take citizens’ calls, compassionately listen to their concerns, and dispatch the appropriate authority to their locations. That is all. To berate or ridicule a caller is not only inexcusable, it is now, in Michigan, actionable in court. Congratulations to the plaintiff in the case, Lorraine Hayes, and her attorneys for a hard-fought victory.

Our citizens are responsible for this sudden turn-around in civil justice. Late last year, they voted to promote Diane Hathaway to the Supreme Court, rejecting the re-election bid of the very conservative former Chief Justice Clifford Taylor. In next year’s election, another very conservative Supreme Court Justice, Robert Young, is running for re-election. It is extremely important that our citizens realize the importance of the civil justice system to our basic civil rights and the importance of their vote in promoting civil justice. Pro-big business, anti-citizen justices, like Justice Young, do not stand up for the rights of the average citizen and Hathaway’s recent election has helped to reverse a 15 year trend of anti-justice, anti-citizen decisions from our highest court. When Robert Young runs for re-election, send him packing. Maybe he can open a law office with Clifford Taylor, representing the concerns of big business.

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Lawsuit Financial will continue to speak out in favor of pro-justice issues. We implore all citizens to do the same.

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