After explosion, homeowners can sue original defendant but not Consumers Energy
In Taylor and Nieznajko v Michigan Petroleum Technologies, two homeowners sued the Defendant after an explosion at its Clio White Oil facility disrupted the lives of area residents. Michigan Petroleum answered the complaint with an added "affirmative defense" alleging that Consumers Energy was responsible for the explosion and fire. The statute of limitations for the homeowners to sue Consumers had expired, however, they would be allowed to join the new defendant, and Michigan Technologies would be able to assign fault to Consumers, if the Defendant's affirmative defense was deemed a valid "Notice of Non-party Fault."
The Supreme Court adopted a Court Rule governing this situation when the Legislature eliminated joint and several liability, and the Court Rule extends the statute of limitations, briefly, where a defendant seeks to assign fault to a third-party after the normal statute of limitations has expired. In this case, however, the Court of Appeals ruled that there could be no assignment of fault, and no joinder of Consumers Energy, because the original Defendant's Affirmative Defense was not captioned as a "Notice of Non-party Fault" and differed from the Court Rule requirements.