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Trial lawyers specializing in personal injury and civil litigation

It's hard to sue for injuries suffered while attempting to flee from your own attempted armed robbery

Scott Zelinski pleaded guilty to unarmed robbery after being accused of robbing Nick's Party Store in Macomb County at knifepoint.  He then sued two individuals who apprehended him while fleeing, arguing that they shot him in the back and beat him up, needlessly.  The Defendants cited the court to the statutory wrongful conduct rule that prevents a "victim" from suing for injuries suffered during the commission of a felony or while fleeing after perpetrating a felony-like crime, providing that the force used against the "victim" is not unreasonable.

Taking note of the statute, Zelinski's plea, and the testimony of bystanders, the Court ruled that there was substantive basis to believe that Zelinski's case would be dismissed.  He therefor granted the defendants' request and ordered that Zelinski file a $10,000.00 bond in order to pursue his claim.  When Zelinski couldn't file the bond, the case was dismissed and he appealed.

Zelinski first argued that since he pleaded guilty to "unarmed" robbery and was not convicted of a felony, the wrongful conduct statute did not apply to him.  The court ruled that under the statutory language, the bar against pursuing an injury action did not require conviction of the underlying felony. 

Zelinski also argued that the lower court wrongly weighed conflicting testimony in concluding that he was not likely to prevail in showing the use of unreasonable force.  The Court of Appeals noted that there was substantial testimony from both the Defendants and uninvolved third-parties supporting the Court's conclusion.

Finally, Zelinski argued that the bond requirement was inappropriate because he is indigent and it operated to close the courthouse doors to his effort to seek justice.  While the Courts exercise great caution in barring indigent litigants through the demand for a cash bond, the higher court in this case concluded that the bond requirement did not constitute an abuse of the trial judge's discretion.

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
309 East Front Street
Traverse City, Michigan 49684
Toll Free: 1-800-678-1307
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