Michigan Supreme Court Suspends All Filing Deadlines for Case Initiation and Responsive Pleadings to Day After Period of Emergency Lockdown Ordered by Governor Whitmer

By  Administrative Order 2020-03  the Michigan Supreme Court has ordered that all filing deadlines for all case initiation and for filing of responsive pleadings in proceedings already initiated are suspended during the period of emergency enunciated in Governor Whitmer’s Executive Order 2020-21 (COVID-19) (March 24 at 12:01 a.m. through April 13, 2020 at 11:59 p.m.).

The “days” during this period which would otherwise constitute the regular business day that a case filing is due under the court rules are being treated like a weekend day or holiday as under MCR 1.108(1), which allows the extension of filing deadlines to the next business day during which the court is open after the weekend or holiday day. The duration of the emergency is essentially being treated like a single consecutive non-business day or holiday for purposes of calculating the time period filing requirements under the Court Rules and particularly the aforementioned MCR 1.108(1).

The Court’s order only applies to case initiation and responsive pleadings to such cases; not to the filing of a brief, for example, that is already due for a case that has already been initiated.

Michigan Supreme Court Issues Emergency Procedures and Guidance and Instructions to State Courts Regarding COVID-19 Response – March 15, 2020

The Michigan Supreme Court issued guidance and directives yesterday (Sunday) March 15, 2020 providing wide latitude to state courts regarding scheduling, court activity, access and limitations on holding public hearings. The Court’s order also included some directives requiring electronic pleadings and video conferencing in certain circumstances.

The Court makes sure to subject its guidance to statutory and constitutional limitations.

In all, the order frees up the courts and court facilities to ensure public health and safety is prioritized (Paragraph 8), while continuing the administration of civil and criminal judicial proceedings. Any fees for remote proceedings shall be waived (Paragraph 2). Trial courts can also waive any locally, self-imposed adjourment rules / policies / administrative and procedural time requirements.

Expect some disruption and delays / adjournments. I’ve already had a trial court sua sponte postpone an April 7 proceeding to August 7.

Below is the enumerated list of the Court’s order.

  1. Trial courts may adjourn any civil matters and any criminal matters where the defendant is not in custody; where a criminal defendant is in custody, trial courts should expand the use of videoconferencing when the defendant consents;
  2. In civil cases, trial courts should maximize the use of technology to enable and/or require parties to participate remotely. Any fees currently charged to allow parties to participate remotely should be waived;
  3. Trial courts may reduce the number of cases set to be heard at any given time to limit the number of people gathered in entranceways, lobbies, corridors, or courtrooms;
  4. Trial courts should maximize the use of technology to facilitate electronic filing and service to reduce the need for in-person filing and service;
  5. Trial courts should, wherever possible, waive strict adherence to any adjournment rules or policies and administrative and procedural time requirements;
  6. Trial courts should coordinate with the local probation departments to allow for discretion in the monitoring of probationers’ ability to comply with conditions without the need for amended orders of probation;
  7. Trial courts should take any other reasonable measures to avoid exposing participants in court proceedings, court employees, and the general public to the COVID-19 virus;
  8. In addition to giving consideration to other obligations imposed by law, trial courts are urged to take into careful consideration public health factors arising out of the present state of emergency: a) in making pretrial release decisions, including in determining any conditions of release, b) in determining any conditions of probation;
  9. If a Chief Judge or the court’s funding unit decides to close the court building to the public, the Chief Judge shall provide SCAO with the court’s plan to continue to provide critical services, including handling emergency matters.

Read the full order here:

Michigan Supreme Court Administrative Order 2020-1 In Re Emergency Procedures in Court Facilities

Supreme Court Issues Peremptory Order Reversing Court of Appeals Opinion Admitting Expert Opinion Without Supporting Literature in Medical Malpractice Case

This peremptory order issued by the Michigan Supreme Court on September 25, 2013, reverses the Court of Appeals opinion in Tondreau ex rel Estate of Peetz v. Sachinders S. Hans, M.D., P.C.coa.opn.

In this medical malpractice case plaintiff alleged malpractice against the defendants and claimed a procedure “a carotid endarterectomy” was the cause of “chronic subdural hematoma” suffered by the decedent.   Decedent’s estate filed suit and sought to admit testimony of two expert witnesses under Michigan Rule of Evidence 702.  The experts testified that the procedure performed by the defendants caused the injury that lead to decedent’ s death.

Defendants objected to the admission of this on the basis that the expert opinion testimony as to this theory of injury was nowhere supported by expert literature on the subject or any other supporting information among the medical community – there were no studies or literature that directly stated this could happen as a result of the procedure performed.  The Court of Appeals ruled the absence of a specific study did not render the expert’s opinion lacking in reliability and therefore inadmissible.  See Slip Op. at 5.

The Supreme Court reversed, ordering the case back to the trial court to sustain the objection and exclude the supporting evidence.  In its order, the Court clearly states “[w]hile peer-reviewed, published literature is not always necessary to meet the requirements of [Michigan Rule of Evidence] 702, in this case the lack of supporting literature, combined with the lack of any other form of support for these opinions render the opinions unreliable and inadmissible under MRE 702.  Edry v. Adelman, 486 Mich. 634, 641 (2010).”

This order provides guidance for practitioners considering the reliability and admissibility of expert testimony in future cases.  A final Supreme Court disposition of an application and that contains a concise statement of the applicable facts and reasons for the decision is binding precedent.  Mich Const 1963, Art 6, § 6; See also Dykes v. William Beaumont Hosp., 246 Mich. App. 471, 483-484 (2001), citing People v. Crall, 444 Mich. 463, 464, n. 8 (1993).  Reiterated more recently in DeFrain v. State Farm Mut. Auto Ins. Co., 491 Mich. 359 (2012).  This order certainly meets that requirement.  Read it here: Tondreau v. Sachinder S. Hans, M.D., P.C.Order.09.25.2013.

For more information about this and other similar cases contact Carson J. Tucker, Chair of the Appeals and Legal Research Group at Lacey & Jones, LLP, a Birmingham law firm serving clients since 1912.  Mr. Tucker can be reached at (248) 283-0763.

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