Court upholds verdict in favor of fire truck driver who admitted fault, despite Defense Counsel's improper argument
Michele LaVigne sued Brenda Glore for personal injuries, after Glore's fire engine collided with the bus LaVigne was driving in Muskegon County. A volunteer firefighter, Glore was attempting a turn the fire engine when excessive speed apparently caused her to leave her lane and strike the bus. She admitted fault but claimed that she intended to make a "wide" turn and had never before experienced loss of traction on the rear tires.The Court of Appeals upheld a jury's verdict that Glore was not negligent, despite her admission of fault and the fact that she drove into LaVigne's lane. Under the pertinent emergency vehicle statute, Glore was empowered to violate the Motor Vehicle Code, but only if she could do so without endangering other motorists.
The Court also acknowledged that Glore's attorney impermissibly argued that LaVigne would still receive No Fault PIP benefits--an irrelevant fact intended to prejudice the jury--but did not consider the error significant enough to order a new trial. The Court suggested that because the jury ruled "no negligence" before it got to the issue of damages, no prejudice resulted from the defense attorney's improper conduct. This is simply balderdash; as though the juror's minds were so compartmentalized that information about so-called "collateral sources" would not influence related decisions (i.e. the award of money damages). The defense attorney brought the collateral source benefits issue before the jury for the explicit purpose of improperly prejudicing their decision and he succeeded.