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Supreme Court reverses Court of Appeals' decision and throws out jury verdict for injured woman

This week, the Michigan Supreme Court reversed a decision of the Court of Appeals which had upheld a jury verdict for Heather Veremis after a car accident.  Veremis had claimed that the Gratiot Place shopping center in Saginaw County created and maintained a hazardous intersection by reason of obstructed view.  The jury ultimately concluded that the dangerous intersection was 60% of the cause of the collision where Veremis was hurt and entered a judgment in her favor. 

Gratiot Place appealed, arguing that it owed no duty to Veremis because the dangerous intersection was "open and obvious;" It argued that "public nuisance" law should not apply to make the defendant responsible for the impeded-view intersection. The defendant also falsely accused the injured woman's husband of improper conduct in contacting the jury foreman on Facebook during the trial.

The Court of Appeals rejected Gratiot Place's appeal and upheld the jury's determination that the intersection maintained by Gratiot Place was an unsafe public nuisance. The judges also chided Gratiot Place's heavy-handed conduct in sending armed security guards to interview the jury foreman's neighbors about his character and "illegal conduct."  Judge Christopher Murray, one of the most dogmatic defenders of insurance special interests, dissented.

This week the Michigan Supreme Court issued a one paragraph opinion overturning the jury verdict and its affirmance by the Court of Appeals. It held that the shopping plaza owed no duty to Veremis or other motorists and passengers on its property. Despite evidence of a "few minor accidents and 'close calls' " at the intersection, Murray and the Republican-dominated Supreme Court concluded that it did not "affect the general public, but rather only a few individuals."  They justified this holding by reference to a prior case where the Court had held that "not just 'any interference with public safety is sufficient to establish a public nuisance.' "  Sadly, this is just another example of the special-interest influenced judges substituting their dogmatic opinion for the opinion of a Constitutionally-founded jury of the litigants' peers.

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
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Traverse City, Michigan 49684
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