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Family of murder victim can sue contractor who failed to report escape immediately

Sharon Brooks, P.R. of the Estate of Dominique Wade sued Starr Commonwealth after a juvenile escapee killed Mr. Wade.    Starr ran a residential treatment program under contract with Wayne County.  Despite a long arrest record and a history of violence and escapes at Starr's facility, Michael Kirksey was not placed in a locked facility.  After his fourth escape (he had not been disciplined for the prior three, either), he killed Mr. Wade.  Wade's Estate claimed that Starr could be held responsible for the death because it violated a safety statute requiring that it "immediately" report an escape to police.  In this case it did not report the escape of Kirksey and three others for nearly two hours.

Starr pointed out that Wade was not killed that evening and argued that its delay in reporting the escape did not "cause" the failure to capture Kirksey.  It also argued that it owed no duty to anticipate and prevent the criminal act of a third party.

The reviewing court acknowledged that under prior rulings of the "Engler Majority" when it dominated the Michigan Supreme Court, there is no common law duty to prevent another's criminal act.  Nevertheless, it found that the statutory duty to "immediately" report an escape created a duty on the part of Starr.  Whether that failure to comply with its statutory duty "caused" Wade's murder was a factual question to be determined by the jury.

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