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A Better Partnership
July 08, 2009

COA Opinion: Inmate Has a Valid Sexual Harrasement Claim Against County Where Deputy Allegedly Used His Authority in the County Jail to Commit a Sexual Assault

The opinion of the Michigan Court of Appeals in Hamed v. Wayne County, et al., No. 278107, was published on July 7, 2009. The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court's award of partial summary judgment to the County, concluding that the County could be held vicariously liable for a quid-pro-quo sexual harassment arising out of a sexual assault committed by a Deputy while the plaintiff was in his custody at the county jail. The Deputy allegedly offered favorable treatment to an inmate in exchange for sexual favors, and then assaulted her in a private office. The Court held that because the plaintiff alleged that the deputy used his authority as a jailer in his unlawful conduct, the County could be vicariously liable. The Court of Appeals distinguished this situation from those where an employee simply seizes an opportunity for unlawful actions, regardless of managerial or supervisory authority. The Court of Appeals also concluded that plaintiff was entitled to assert a claim under the Michigan Civil Rights Act related to provision of a public service. The statute does exempt correctional facilities from the definition of a public service "with respect to actions and decisions regarding an individual serving a sentence of imprisonment." MCL ' 37.2301(b). In this case, however, the plaintiff was not serving a sentence of imprisonment because she was only in the Wayne County Jail to await hearing on probation violation charges. Although she had been sentenced to a jail term in Livingston County on an unrelated charge, that jail term was not set to begin until after her sexual assault, and had nothing to do with the reason she was in the Wayne County Jail.

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