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The Supreme Court confirms that "fault" requires "duty" to the victim

Several years ago, the Legislature revised the "deep pocket" rules for collecting compensation and eliminated much of "joint and several" liability.  The Supreme Court then adopted a new court rule which allowed defendants to formally claim that a third-party was responsible for an injury and to seek a jury determination that a share of responsibility should be formally allocated to the unrepresented party: the practical impact of this court rule was to allow a negligent party to avoid paying for the share of harm that it could deflect to the unrepresented party (and reduce the victim's recovery by that amount).  Insurers soon claimed that fault could be allocated to third-parties, even if they owed no duty to the victim.  The Supreme Court rejected this reasoning in Romain v. Frankenmuth Mutual Insurance Company.

The Court held that one cannot breach a legal duty if no duty exists, and cannot be a proximate cause of injury if there is no legal duty to the victim.  It is a sad day when insurers are emboldened to raise such spurious claims and when a unanimous memorandum opinion on behalf of a consumer in the Michigan Supreme Court is newsworthy--even if it simply re-states a long-understood and previously unquestioned principle.

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