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Republican majority rejects anguish claim for home destruction; values liability limitation over victim's loss

High Pointe Oil Company mistakenly pumped Beckie Price's basement full of 400 gallons of fuel oil.  It was necessary to build a new home on the site as Price's home of 32 years was not salvageable.  She sued for non-economic damages, arguing that she suffered mental anguish resulting from the loss of her long-time home.  The Michigan Supreme Court's Republican Majority issued an opinion (4-0) rejecting any claim for damages beyond the repair or replacement of the property.

The Republicans justified their decision by reference to these "principles":

    1.  Everyone values property they own above market value, or they wouldn't keep it. Nevertheless "the market" does not recognize this excess or enhanced value. Therefore, justice should not.

    2.  Non-economic damages are more difficult to measure and ascertain.  Therefore they should not be collectible.  If we can't be certain what someone lost, they should be awarded nothing.

    3.  Limiting recovery to economic damages limits the disparities that can occur from case to case:  since one party might recover significant damages, while another party might be awarded minimal damages, no one should recover any damages.

    4.  The rule disallowing any non-economic recovery affords a reasonable level of certainty to business regarding potential liability:  since liability for a stupid error might be enormous or hard to predict, it is best to eliminate it altogether.

Sadly, the "logic" of this opinion straightforwardly demonstrates the extent to which the Republican judiciary identifies with business interests at the expense of individual victims.  Historically the common law was explicit with regard to the general rule that if an injury had occurred but the damages were difficult to ascertain, the wrong-doer should bear the risk of uncertainty.  Obviously that concept has been swept aside and victims of difficult-to-ascertain injury are left to suffer their loss without complaint or remedy.

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
309 East Front Street
Traverse City, Michigan 49684
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