Two Alpena, Michigan men set an arson fire in their store with the hope of collecting insurance money. They admitted that they intended to simply have a small, smokey fire that would damage their inventory, which apparently wasn't selling very well, so they could collect on their insurance policy. However, when the fire spilled over into the adjoining store, the men sued the insurance company. They argued that they set the fire in their own store, but that the fire next door was accidental and therefore they should receive coverage for the damage to the other building. A panel of the state Court of Appeals amazingly reversed the trial court's decision to dismiss this ridiculous case, but the Michigan Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, eventually reversed the Court of Appeals and ruled that the fire "cannot be characterized as an accident."
After a police officer
decided not to take an intoxicated woman into custody, she sued him.
She admitted that she could not remember most of the events that night,
only that she was too drunk to drive (she also admitted that she was
too drunk to rely on any promises possibly made by the officer). This
case was dismissed by a lower court, and the Appeals Court agreed, ruling
that the police officer had no duty to place her in protective custody.
According to a Michigan
Assistant Attorney General testifying before the Michigan Senate Judiciary
Committee, frivolous prisoner lawsuits are overburdening state and federal
courts. In Case No. 9650302, a prisoner sued the state blaming the food
in prison for his flatulence problem. The Attorney General's Office
estimates the annual cost of defending the state against frivolous prisoner
lawsuits to be several million dollars, all paid for by the state taxpayer.
Oasis Truck Stop,
a popular travel stop located at the intersection of M59 and US23 in
Hartland, was sued by a customer who spilled coffee on herself. The
makers of the coffee machine and coffee mug were also sued. The customer's
lawyer claimed the coffee was too hot, yet the temperature of the coffee
was shown to be exactly what it should have been according to accepted
industry standards. Amazingly, a panel of "objective" mediators
appointed by the court suggested a settlement that would have rewarded
the customer with $62,500. Later, a jury found the defendants not guilty
of any negligence and awarded zero dollars, but only after considerable
cost to the defendants.
A 12 year old girl
was skating at a public ice rink in Berkley, Michigan when she ran into
another skater and knocked her down causing a knee injury to the fallen
skater. The injured woman sued the girl. The trial court dismissed the
case saying that the child's manner was not reckless. The trial court
stated that the accident occurred during an open skating session at
the ice rink and that there are certain risks that must be assumed by
participants in recreational activities, especially on ice which is
in itself dangerous because of its slippery and hard nature. Sadly,
a panel of the Court of Appeals reversed the trial court decision and
allowed the case to go to trial. Fortunately for the girl and her family,
the Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals stating that "When
one combines the nature of ice with the relative proximity of skaters
of various abilities, a degree of risk is readily apparent..."
A Michigan couple
sued the owners of a nearby business claiming that dust, noise and vibrations
invaded their property and therefore were trespassing. A jury actually
found in their favor, but a Court of Appeals panel overturned the jury's
verdict. The Appeals court stated that noise, vibrations and dust are
intangible objects and can not be considered as trespassers.
A woman from Grand
Haven, Michigan filed a lawsuit for more than $25,000 after she was
injured by a firecracker she took from a condominium that she had cleaned.
While dining later with friends at a restaurant, the woman lit the firecracker
claiming that she mistakenly thought it was a decorative candle. The
explosion resulted in severe injuries to the woman. She sued the owners
of the condo for leaving the firecracker behind without a warning on
it. The condo owners said that they had placed the device, which looks
like a "huge firecracker," in a cupboard to keep it away from
the children after someone left it at their house after a party.
A woman sued a bowling
alley claiming she slipped and fell on an icy pothole which resulted
in a disc herniation. She claimed no previous back problems, but her
medical records showed numerous lower back problems over the past 10
years, and she was diagnosed with lumbar radiculitis the previous year.
Bowling alley league records proved that she completed the remaining
14 WEEKS of the season after the alleged fall. In addition, a meteorologist
testified that weather conditions for that day could not have formed
ice. A jury determined that the bowling alley was not at fault.
A college student
who was attacked by a student-athlete sued the dean of judicial affairs
for negligence. The student-athlete had previously attacked two other
people and, because of this, the victim claimed that the dean should
have known of the athlete's violent tendencies. The Appeals Court ruled
that the trial court was correct in dismissing the case because there
is no existing special relationship between athletes on scholarship
and an associate dean of student judicial affairs. The Court stated
that the defendant was entitled to costs and attorney fees since the
victim's lawsuit was "vexatious and without any reasonable basis
for a belief in its merit."
In Detroit, a passenger
on a city bus sued when the bus was rear-ended by a van, causing only
a cracked taillight and split hose. The woman claimed she was thrown
about the bus and injured. However, the bus driver testified that the
air brakes where on and that the passengers boarding the bus did not
move at the time of the collision. A Wayne County Circuit Court jury
found no injury.
During a pickup
basketball game, a man tripped and fell over decorative rocks along
a driveway where the basketball net was located. He then sued the homeowner.
The injured man's friend testified that he had not only noticed the
rocks but also pointed them out. The man denied seeing the rocks but
admitted that if he had looked up he would have seen them. The trial
court judge found that the property owner was not at fault since the
rocks were open and obvious. The Court of Appeals agreed.
While an employee
of Hutzel Hospital was being pushed in a wheelchair through an entrance
ramp that was not intended to be used by people in wheelchairs, she
was struck in the head by a parking gate. The woman sued the makers
of the gate for causing her closed head injuries and shoulder and neck
pains. Other employees of the hospital stated that the ramp was not
meant for wheelchairs and that there was a walkway next to the parking
lot that accommodated wheelchairs. The jury found the maker of the gate
not to be at fault.
When a man let his
two dogs out of his house, they began chasing something and ran across
neighbor's property. When the dog owner chased his dogs over the neighbor's
property, he injured himself when he stepped into a snow-covered fence
post hole and fell. He sued the property owner for negligence. The Appeals
Court agreed with the lower court's decision to dismiss the case saying
that since the man was trespassing, the owner of the property was not
required to make sure his property was safe from people falling in the
A six year-old plaintiff was awarded nothing from an Oakland County jury for his lawsuit against a swing manufacturer that he alleged had a faulty design. The child allegedly fell off a swing at a public park because the seat was wobbly and loose. However the manufacturer testified that the swing was over twenty years old and that it had been altered, in particular the lock washers that kept the seat stable were missing.
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