With over 25 years experience in the area of civil litigation, I now offer mediation services as a part of my practice. SCAO mediator training has been completed, and I am currently on the approved mediatior list in several Michigan Circuit Courts.
Having participated in many mediations, both as litigant and as mediator, I have come to understand the process and its benefits for all parties. I have always tried to earn the trust of all the attorneys with whom I have worked. This trust is, obviously, vital in the mediation process.
There will be no charge for the following services: phone conferences, scheduling, correspondence or administrative staff work. The only services charged are review of submissions before the hearing, and conducting the mediation.
ST. IVO OF KERMARTIN--PATRON SAINT OF THIS SITE
Born to a wealthy Breton noble family. From age 14 he studied civil and canon lawyer, philosophy, and theology in Paris and Orleans. Franciscan tertiary. Lawyer who practised in both civil and ecclesiastical courts, often defending the poor without charge, and ministering to them in prison while they awaited trial. Practised great personal ascetism, with frequent fasts, and wearing a hair shirt under his clothing. Fought the state over taxes and the rights of the Church. Incorruptible diocesan judge, refusing the bribes that were the order of the day, and working to settle claims out of court in order to save the litigants time and money. Noted preacher and arbitor, he built a hospital from his own funds, tended the poor in it, and gave away the harvests from his land to feed them.
SANCTUS IVO ERAT BRITO,
ADVOCATUS ET NON LATRO,
RES MIRANDA POPULO.
(ST. IVO CAME FROM THE LAND OF BEEF,
A LAWYER, HE, BUT NOT A THIEF;
A STRETCH ON POPULAR BELIEF.)
As a fellow resident of Livonia, and a member of the Catholic Central family, I urge you to vote against the current proposed No-Fault reform bill.
There are plenty of abuses in the current No-Fault system, but this bill does not address them.
A complex issue has been rushed through the legislature with such haste, that the average citizen (who is wondering why the same group can’t come up with a method to fix our roads) must wonder what special interests will profit from the proposed changes.
As the son of a life-long Union man, I am reminded of the swift passage of the Right to Work law.
Sadly, it is this kind of backroom politics that made this “old white man” leave the Republican party after a generation.
Now, I wonder what our legislature will do with the $20 Billion in the Catastrophic Fund when it will no longer be needed to pay medical bills? When it is not returned to the private citizens who paid for it, but appropriated by the state, I will pull out my old law school books to check the definition of Larceny by Conversion.
Real reform of a 40+ year old law takes intelligence and hard work. I have seen neither in this bill.
Today's post is something of a cross-over. Kind of like the cartoon episode when the Jetsons visited the Fllintstones. Or, when the cast of Green Acres met the folks from Petticoat Junction. The merry mix-ups that resulted on those special occasions were hilarious.
Here we will start of with Michigan premises liability law and in the end meet up with Michigan auto negligence law. Merry mix-ups there will be, but any resulting laughter will need to come from a laugh track machine.
The picture above shows one of the warning signs posted on the wall of each of the entrance and exit ramps of the Ford Auditorium underground parking structure, just east of the intersection of Jefferson and Woodward, across the street from the City-County Building in Detroit. The ramps are very narrow, with about 18 inches of clearance between the side of an average car and each of the ramp walls. If a pedestrian disregards the warning and walks up or down the ramp, it takes a very careful driver indeed to avoid contact. It does seem odd that people walk on the ramps, when the structure provides a covered stairway from the parking levels to Jefferson Avenue. Those who disregard both the warnings and the stairway and walk the ramps only save about a dozen steps over those who use the stairs.
The huge irony in this is that many Wayne County Civil Division Judges habitually walk the ramps despite the warnings and despite the hazards. I don't think all the judges park in the Ford structure, but I can safely say that every Wayne County Judge I have seen that parks in the structure walks up and down the ramp. I have encountered them as I have driven down the ramps entering and have driven up the ramps exiting. I have seen a judge walk down the ramp, with his or her back to traffic, while talking on his or her cell phone. I have seen a judge walk up a snow-covered ramp on the morning of the worst weekday snowfall of the horrible winter of 2014.
The supreme irony in this is that these same Wayne County judges will then walk into their courtrooms and dismiss the cases of innocent accident victims under Michigan's Open and Obvious doctrine.
Judge: Counsel, I am granting the Defendant's Motion for Summary Disposition. The black ice he fell on was Open and Obvious.
Attorney: But, your Honor, the ice was invisible.
Judge: Yes, but the Defendant has a witness who says there was a small patch of snow three blocks away from the accident scene. Your client should therefore have known that there was a possibility that there could be invisible black ice on that porch.
Attorney: But, Judge, my client is a policeman and that porch was at a house where he was responding to a domestic dispute call. The 911 caller said the home owner had pulled a gun.
Attorney: So? He had to do his job. If he didn't go onto that porch he would have lost his job, at best, or there could have been lives lost at worst. Whatever the hazard was, it was unavoidable under the circumstances.
Judge: Not so. He could have used the back door.
Attorney: What back door?
Judge: All municipal fire codes require two entrances to a house. I am sure there was a back door. There had to be. And so your client had a choice. He didn't have to use that front door or go on that porch. Haven't you read the Hoffner case, counsel?
Attorney: I did, but I thought I was reading the latest issue of Mad Magazine. So, let's say there was a back door, what proof is there that the back porch had no ice on it?
Judge: What proof do you have that there was? Your client didn't bother to look back there, did he?
Attorney: Judge, when he went up the walk he looked through the front window and saw the owner with a gun in his hand.
Judge: Counsel, we do agree that your client fell, do we not?
Attorney: We do.
Judge: Then, obviously your client was not acting with reasonable care for his own safety at the time of his accident.
Attorney: Not to get personal, judge, but on the way in here this morning, I saw you walk up the Ford Auditorium parking ramp, though there is a "Danger, Don't Walk on Ramp" sign in plain view and it happened to be snowing at the time. How can you rule that my client wasn't acting reasonably?
Judge: Counsel, I did not fall.
Judge: So, obviously I was acting reasonably.
Attorney: So you habitually walking up that narrow ramp against traffic and in disregard of an explicit warning isn't negligent? As a matter of law?
Judge: You are correct.
Attorney: Judge, when do the rest of the Marx Brothers arrive?
Judge: Counsel, I believe you are in contempt.
Attorney: Well, that's Open and Obvious, at least.
One brave lawyer did point out this behavior to one of the offending (I'm sorry) reasonable judges--away from the bench. That judge did admit that he/she could probably not sue the structure if he/she fell.
Well, I think Michigan law will go a bit further than that. (Here's where the crossover comes in). According to a recent case, the ramp walking judges would not be able to sue a driver that hit them on the ramp--even if that driver was looking down checking his email at the time of impact.
In the case of Ascencio v Snider, Case No. 316643, decided September 23, 2014, the Michigan Court of Appeals threw out the case of poor Mr. Ascencio, a man on a bicycle who had the bad taste to have the right of way on sidewalk that Mr. Snider had blocked with his car while he was waiting to turn out of a bank parking lot. When Mr. Ascencio attempted to proceed around the Snider car, the Snider car struck him.
This, the Court held, was totally Ascencio's fault. If someone is blocking your path, apparently you can only pass them by going behind them. If you try to pass in front of the blocking vehicle you are acting unreasonably as a matter of law. No jury necessary. In addition, as Snider wanted to turn northbound, his only duty was to look southbound (to his left) for oncoming traffic. He had no duty to look to his right for people like Ascencio who were approaching from the right. Or, dare I say for school children who may have had the bad luck to have their school built on what was the passenger side of Snider's vehicle.
The Michigan Court of Appeals really didn't like Ascencio. They bounced him out of court on two separate grounds. First, Snider had no duty to even look for him. And second, he, Ascencio was more than 50% negligent for attempting to pass in front of him. I guess trying to pass behind him would have been different?
In any case, given the ruling in Ascencio, any motorist can hit, with impunity, a judge (or anyone else, I guess) walking up or down the Ford Auditorium ramps. There is, after all, no reason for a motorist to expect anyone to be on the ramps, given the signs and all.
So, a Michigan court has held that a motorist, in Snider's position, had no duty to avoid Mr. Ascencio, a man on a bike in plain view. However, if instead of being a man, Mr. Ascencio had been a patch of invisible black ice, that same Michigan court would have imposed on Mr. Snider an absolute duty to avoid him.
This new category will showcase real ads for real products:
In the late 1800's there was an explosion of advertisements for various substances produced for pharmaceutical purposes. This is a vintage advertisement for Dr. Batty's Asthma Cigarettes. These cigarettes possess unknown contents and claim to provide relief for everything from asthma, to colds, canker sores, and bad breath. Certainly the inventor of the product is aptly named.
This will also be featured another upcoming new category: Irony R Us.
The Honey Tree restaurant on Southfield Road, south of 12 Mile is on our office lunchtime short list. Its a nice little place-good food and very close to our building. I do have one problem with the place, however.
There is basically one large screen TV, which is visible to most of the restaurant. On the vast majority of weekdays, that TV is set to the Wendy Williams show on what in pre-cable days was known as Channel 20, from Noon to 1. I don't mind Wendy at all. She doesn't take herself too seriously, and I admire that in any man or woman. That said, I am grateful that the Honey Tree mutes the sound during the show.
My problem is with the show's ads. There is an endless parade of local attorney commercials. Yesterday, March 25, 2015, was typical. From 12:30 to 1pm, a span of 30 minutes, there were a lucky 13 lawyer ads, as follows:
No Shatner, no Robert Vaughn. Actual attorneys from the advertising firms were featured. Odd thing, however. Of the total of 6 lawyers who appear in the ads, collectively, only 1 have I ever seen in a courtroom in my long, misguided legal career.
By the way, it is a larger blessing that the sound is off during these commercials.
Mark Grayell of my office indicates that this attorney ad saturation is nothing compared to what the same channel does in the 10-11:30pm time slot. Fortunately, I am not compelled to have the TV on at that time.
The Honey Tree rule is that whoever drives to the restaurant has first choice of a seat facing away from the TV. Sadly, I see a day coming soon when every member of our little group will be separately driving the short distance to the Honey Tree, and we will be scrambling for those seats like a group of kids at the end of a game of Musical Chairs.
On a related note, our receptionist was involved in an auto accident on March 17, 2015. She has already received more than one call asking if she was hurt in an auto accident. March 25 is less than 30 days after March 17, even considering Daylight Savings Time. More to follow.
I had the pleasure of helping the Catholic Central Mock Trial teams prepare for the state Regional competition March 14, 2014 at the Oakland County Circuit Court. This year's case was a fairly complex one involving claims of invasion of privacy and eavesdropping through remote computer monitoring of students by a company running a high school laptop program.
Of the 29 teams participating, only 4 get automatic qualification for States on March 28. Another 4 teams, getting Honorable Mention can qualify as wild cards. With so few moving on, a loss in any of the 3 trials in the Regional virtually guarantees elimination.
All teams were remarkably well prepared and the competition was pretty intense. I was very impressed by our CC boys, who, in my unbiased opinion, looked like real pros. They, frankly, blew me away. CC owes special thanks to Faculty Advisor Erik Nilsen and Judge Lita M. Popke of the Wayne County Circuit Court who was lead coach for the teams.
One of our teams did get Honorable Mention and we await word about Wild Card qualifications.
Interesting to learn that one of our opponents today was Detroit Communication and Media Arts High School, which is housed in the old St. Mary's of Redford High School building.
Oh, yes, and by the way, CC won the state Hockey title March 14th as well.
It has been my honor to be part of the Kaye Tertzag Tribute Dinner Committee since the event’s inception. The committee has also been gracious enough to allow me to act as emcee. At the 2015 event last Wednesday, I related a short story concerning the legal profession, which I share here:
“It is good that we come here to remind us of the nobler qualities of being a lawyer. The image of the profession lately has taken more hits than usual. And though some might say that we, as lawyers, have contributed to some of the tarnish that may be on that image, I would have to disagree. I think lawyers are just one big happy family. Let me share a short story
Many don’t know that I was involved in an auto accident during the past year. Not very serious. An EMS trip to the emergency room to get checked out, the bill sent to Blue Cross, no missed time from work. However, within days of the accident, I was touched to see how many plaintiff lawyers’ offices contacted me, at home, to offer their help.
I did report the accident to my insurance company, and not to be outdone, a week later I heard from a defense firm that expressed its concern for my welfare by setting me up for an Independent medical exam, and scheduling me and all my family members for statements under oath-just to make sure I had made the claim with the right insurance company. (I had been driving my car, insured with the same Insurance carrier I have had for over 30 years.
I week later I was contacted by a lawyer from Blue Cross asking if I was making a claim with anyone else. Depending upon the answer, the lawyer said, Blue Cross would either refuse to pay the bill, or pay it and file a lien on my claim.
The day after that, I received a call from an attorney for the hospital. He said, that until its bill was paid, it was reserving the right to file its own independent action against me and/or my auto insurance company and/or to intervene on any action I might file.
Yes, indeed, one—big—happy—family.”
Note: I didn’t want to make the story overlong, so I omitted the call I received from the City Attorney from the town where the accident happened. Even though the accident was not my fault, I didn’t live in the town, and therefore I was subject to an “enhanced” EMS charge billed to non-residents. Out of courtesy, the City Attorney informed me that my insurance company, in all likelihood would not pay the enhanced charge, so if I didn’t pay the difference in 7 days, I would be subject to the City’s “enhanced” collection techniques.