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Michigan Supreme Court says a housewife has "economic" value

In a landmark ruling perhaps staking out the high-water mark of the insurance industry's dominance of Michigan jurisprudence, yesterday the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that "Yes, Virginia, taking care of the kids has economic value."  For more than ten years, the Supreme Court majority hand-selected by John Engler had given the insurance industry literally everything it asked for. 

Regardless of precedent, common sense or sound public policy, insurance industry and Chamber of Commerce advocacy was rewarded in every context.  This week we learned that with last November's defeat of one of Engler's lackeys, perhaps the tide has crested.  In a 4-3 decision, three Democratic Court nominees and one Republican voted to recognize that a mother's household contributions have economic value.  One would have thought that even to arch conservatives, this principle would have been sacrosanct.

In Thorn v. Mercy Memorial Hospital, a young housewife's family sued the hospital where Laurie Green allegedly bled to death following a routine C-section.  The Hospital and its insurers argued that her family could only recover "capped" non-economic damages because Green did not currently work outside the home.  Under the cap, the family would have received no compensation for replacing Green's household services in caring for her kids or maintaining the home.  Regardless of the jury's verdict, a judge would have been required to reduce the family's recovery to a judgment well under one million dollars.

The four Justices in the majority rejected the Hospital's argument that child care and household services have no economic value and should be treated as "pain and suffering" losses or non-economic "loss of society and companionship."  It is remarkable to think that three Justices who call themselves "conservative" and who claim to reject what they call "judicial activism" would bow to the insurance industry's bidding to such an extent that they would  suggest that a housewife who does not work outside the home, and who stays at home to care for her kids, has no economic value.

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
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