Foster parents immune from responsibility in drowning death of 2 year-old
When 2 year-old Travis LaMere's parents were arrested, Travis was sent to live, temporarily, with a foster family, Timothy and Ann Lequia. The Lequias live on a river in Marquette County and within a week, Travis apparently wandered into the river and drowned. His family filed a wrongful death lawsuit, and the Lequia's insurer, State Farm, immediately argued that it had no coverage for Travis' death. Faced with equally difficult choices, the Court ultimately concluded that State Farm did not have to provide coverage because for the duration of his stay in the Lequia home, Travis was an "insured resident," subject to an exclusion in the policy.
A majority of the Court went on to hold that since Travis' drowning was unequivocally a result of alleged negligent supervision, his foster "parents"--standing in the shoes of his birth parents--were immune from liability. Under a statute confirming traditional Michigan law, a parent is not liable to his or her child if the child is injured as a result of negligent supervision. In a spirited dissent, Judge Servitto pointed out that Travis was left in the unfenced back yard to be supervised by an otherwise-engaged 12-year old in the garage, alongside a river with an island slide in plain view to the child. Under these circumstances, she did not consider the case to be governed by the statute that renders a parent immune from liability in "the exercise of reasonable parental discretion."
Travis' claim was a typical decision for Judge Bandstra, however, as he virtually always sides with insurers and against injury victims. In any case, you can predict his vote just by identifying the parties and the nature of the claim, without knowing the pertinent facts or law.