MSC: Defense counsel ineffective for failing to engage expert to testify regarding victim’s cause of death

In People v Ackley, No. 149479, the Michigan Supreme Court held that the defense counsel’s failure to engage an expert witness to testify on behalf of the defendant as to the cause of the victim’s death, fell below the objective standard of reasonableness where expert testimony was a cornerstone of the prosecution’s case. Defendant was convicted of first-degree child abuse and a first-degree felony murder after his girlfriend’s three-year-old daughter died of a head injury while in his care. The prosecution called five experts to testify at trial regarding the cause of the child’s death.
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COA: Statements made to police for the purpose of reporting criminal activity are entitled to absolute privilege in defamation suits

In Eddington v. Torrez, No. 320882, the Michigan Court of Appeals held that a defamation claim cannot be maintained against a defendant if the basis of the claim depends on statements made to police concerning criminal activity, as those statements are absolutely privileged and therefore immune from suit. Read More

COA: A plaintiff cannot rely on the internal documents of a defendant transportation authority to satisfy the notice requirement under the MTA Act

In Fields v. Smart, No. 318235, the Court of Appeals held that the Metropolitan Transportation Authorities Act (“MTA Act”) requires that someone other than the defendant actually serve some form of notice on the defendant transportation authority rather than  relying solely on the authority’s receipt of police reports and the authority’s own internal documents. Read More

COA: Proper consideration of a child’s best interests in custodial dispute does not require court to interview the child to determine the child’s reasonable preference

In Maier v. Maier, No. 322109, the Court of Appeals held that the trial court did not err when it declined to interview the child at issue for the purpose of determining the child’s reasonable parental preference, a factor considered when deciding the child’s best interests in a custody dispute.  Further, the Court of Appeals held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it reached a custody decision without considering the plaintiff’s psychological condition, committed harmless error by considering the plaintiff’s failure to abide by court orders when determining best-interest factors, and any erroneous admission of hearsay testimony did not reach the level of bias.  Finally, the Court of Appeals held that the trial court properly considered the best interests of the child when granting parenting time.  Therefore, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s award of custody and parenting time. Read More

COA: A “finder” may not have to register under Michigan’s Uniform Securities Act

In Pransky v. Falcon Group, Inc., No. 319266; 319613, the Court of Appeals held that Michigan’s Uniform Securities Act (“Securities Act”) does not require a “finder” to register as a “broker-dealer,” “agent” or “investment advisor.”  Thus, a consulting agreement requiring Defendant Falcon Group, Inc. (“Falcon”) to perform services as a finder for Plaintiff Pransky was not illegal. Therefore, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s order dismissing Pransky’s claims premised on the illegality of the consulting agreement but vacated the order compelling Pransky to pay attorney fees. Read More

COA to lower courts: Consider proper statutory factors before ruling on child-custody jurisdiction

In Cheesman v. Williams, No. 320446, the Court of Appeals clarified the analysis that a trial court must undertake to determine the existence and exercise of jurisdiction in a child-custody dispute. Under MCL 722.1201(1), a Michigan court has jurisdiction over a child-custody dispute under certain circumstances, and only under those circumstances. In order to decline to exercise jurisdiction under MCL 722.1207 because Michigan is an “inconvenient forum,” the trial court must first fully consider whether the circumstances of MCL 722.1201(1) apply, and then must consider the eight factors under MCL 722.1207. Because the trial court failed to consider all of the relevant statutory provisions and because the record was devoid of evidence regarding certain issues, the Court of Appeals reversed and remanded for the trial court to properly apply the statutes and to take additional evidence. Read More

MSC: Governmental employee’s failure to intervene in victim’s already initiated drowning does not transform inaction into the proximate cause of the victim’s death

In Beals v. Michigan, No. 149901, the Michigan Supreme Court held that a lifeguard’s failure to intervene does not satisfy the proximate cause element for the exemption to governmental immunity articulated in MCL 691.1407(2). Read More

MSC: Insanity is a potential defense to any crime

In People v. Moore, the Supreme Court clarified that insanity is a defense to all categories of crimes.  As the Court noted, MCL 768.21a does not limit application of the insanity defense to just specific intent crimes.  Therefore, in the absence of this limiting language, insanity may be used as a defense to general intent, specific intent, and strict liability offenses.
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COA: Wrongful death actions on behalf of a nonviable fetus get same treatment as if brought on behalf of a “person”

The Michigan Court of Appeals held in Simpson v. Alex Pickens, Jr. & Assoc., M.D., P.C., No. 320443, that an omission can serve as the basis of a wrongful death claim involving the death of a nonviable fetus.  The court held that amendments made to the Wrongful Death Statute, MCL 600.2922, merely expanded the scope of actionable deaths to include the death of an embryo or fetus.  The amendments did not force such an action to be brought under MCL 600.2922a, which requires an affirmative act to cause the death in order to state an actionable claim.
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COA holds that the presumed father is a necessary party for paternity actions under the RPA

In Michigan, the Revocation of Paternity Act (“RPA”) provides standing for alleged fathers to seek a determination that a child was born out of wedlock, even though the mother was married at the time of the conception or birth.  MCL 722.1441(3); MCL 722.1433(c).  In Graham v. Foster, No. 318487, the Michigan Court of Appeals found that due to the important liberty interests at stake in the development of the parent-child relationship, the presumed father is a necessary party for actions brought under the Act. Read More
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