Court dismisses car owner's claims against fire investigators
Walter Radu was a long-time firefighter in Dearborn. His car burned in a neighboring park and he filed a vehicle damage claim. The Auto Club, his insurer, asked Herndon & Herndon to investigate. The ACIA investigator concluded the fuel line had been intentionally cut and that Radu's actins were suspicious, and asked the Oakland County Sheriff's Office to investigate.
The Fire Investigator for the Sheriff conclude that Radu set the fire and the Prosecutor issued a warrant. Ultimately the Prosecutor chose not to pursue the claim and Radu sued the Auto Club. It resolved the claim with the insurer and exectuted a Release that was final as to ACIA and "its representatives." Radu then sued the investigators.The trial judge concluded that Herndon investigated as a representative of ACIA, and therefore Radu had waived any claim against him. The judge also concluded that both he and the Sheriff's investigator enjoyed statutory immunity in their report of suspected arson. The trial judge also held that in any event, the Sheriff's man enjoyed governmental immunity because he didn't act with malice or exhibit gross negligence. Radu appealed. He argued that the investigations were so incompetent that they failed to detect that the gas line was severed and removed after the fire, rather than before. He claimed that there superficial analysis was evidence of either gross negligence or actual malice.
The Court of Appeals rejected Radu's arguments, citing some corroborating evidence for the investigators' conclusions and no evidence of actual malice.