Supreme Court repudiates K. F. [Kirsten] Kelly opinion denying insurance benefits to fire victim
Back in May of 2011, Judge K.F. (Kirsten) Kelly and Judge Peter O'Connell reversed a Manistee County trial judge's opinion granting fire insurance benefits to Roxanne Hicks. The trial judge had ruled that while "unsophisticated, uneducated and naive" Ricky Hicks had attempted to defraud the Auto Club Insurance Company by including false claims for property loss, his wife, Roxanne, had not participated in the attempted fraud. The trial judge pointed out that Roxanne, who had lost two nephews in a previous fire, was rendered virtually helpless after this fire, in part because she hadn't yet moved into the home and was pregnant with her fifth child. The Judge held that her errors were not intentional and that she was still entitled to compensation for her losses. Judge K.F. Kelly, who always sides with the insurer in every dispute, accepted the less-than-accurate factual summary of the Auto Club, apparently, and reversed the lower court on the assumption that Roxanne must have participated in the fraud. She gave no deference to the trial judge's assessment of credibility and ruled there was "clear error."Judge Ronayne Krause pointed out the inaccuracies in the majority opinion and dissented from the Court of Appeals' decision. This week Krause was vindicated when the Michigan Supreme Court unanimously overturned the lower court's opinion for the reasons stated in Krause's dissent, and sent the case back to the lower court for further analysis.