In a case I briefed and argued in January, Hamed v Wayne County, the Michigan Supreme Court issued a decision on July 29, 2011, reversing a published Court of Appeals decision and overruling the 1996 Supreme Court opinion in Champion v Nationwide Security Inc, 450 Mich 702 (1996). That case held that an employer was strictly liable for the intentional, criminal acts of his employee under Michigan’s Civil Rights Act.
In Hamed, the Court held that the prevailing common-law rule that an employer was not liable for the intentional and unforeseeable criminal acts of his employee was not abrogated by the Civil Rights Act. The Michigan Constitution, Art. 3, § 7 provides that the common law remains in force unless and until affirmatively modified. Despite the fact that the 1996 Champion decision had incorporated a judicial exception to this common-law rule in cases alleging discrimination under Michigan’s Civil Rights Act, there was no language in that statute abrogating the common law. Subsequent cases had also explicitly rejected this exception, but not in the context of claims alleged under the Civil Rights Act.
Here, the Court ruled that the common-law rule prevails – employers cannot be held strictly liable for the unforeseeable intentional, tortious acts of their employees. The Court adhered to the principle that an employer must have been put on notice of the specific propensities of an employee to commit the act complained of prior to the incident. This ruling preserves the traditional tort-law element of foreseeability.
This case will have major impact on businesses, employers and governmental entities in addressing future litigation.
Published by Carson J Tucker, JD MSEL
Owner of law firm since July 2014; Handles all types of appellate matters and assists other lawyers with complex litigation and insurance coverage issues; Admitted to the Supreme Court of the United States, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals and the State Bar of Michigan; Expertise in prosecuting and defending appeals with several significant successes in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, the Michigan Supreme Court and the Michigan Court of Appeals; Author of briefs amicus curiae in the Michigan Supreme Court for the Michigan Defense Trial Counsel and the Insurance Institute of Michigan; Represents Insurance Companies, Major International Business, Governmental Entities, Law Enforcement Officers and County Sheriffs.
Board of Directors, Michigan Defense Trial Counsel
Amicus Committee Co-Chair, Michigan Defense Trial Counsel
Military - Retired Major in the Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps of the United States Army, Brigade Judge Advocate and Staff JAG officer for the Maneuver Training Center, Camp Grayling, Michigan; Recipient of the Army's Meritorious Service Medal (the highest medal of honor available to Soldiers serving in non-combat roles); 2012 Graduate of the Judge Advocate Officer Advanced Course, at The Judge Advocate Legal Center and School, Charlottesville, Virginia.
United States Navy Reserves, Combat Warfare Qualification, January 1989 to July 2003
Former law clerk to Justice Stephen J. Markman, Michigan Supreme Court, Research Attorney, Michigan Court of Appeals. Insurance Coverage Associate Plunkett Cooney; Environmental Law Attorney at Squire Sanders, now Squire Patton Boggs; Master's Degree in Environmental Law; Environmental Law Scholar, ALI/ABA Washington, D.C., Juris Doctorate, Vermont Law School, Environmental Editor, Vermont Law Review; Treasurer and Finalist, Moot Court Advisory Board.
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