Victim's attorney tricked? Claim dismissed based on boilerplate language in Release
Tom Shay was allegedly beaten after being arrested for disorderly conduct by police officers from Melvindale and Allen Park. He filed suit and the case went to a formal procedure called Case Evaluation where experienced attorneys place a settlement value on the claim. Parties are free to accept or reject the settlement value, but they will be sanctioned if they reject and don't improve their position at trial.
Evaluators suggested awards of $500,000.00 against officer John Aldrich, $500,000.00 against officer William Plemons and $450,000.00 against officer J. Miller. They suggested awards of $12,500.00 against each of two Allen Park officers involved. Shay and the Allen Park officers all accepted the evaluations, and the Allen Park officers' attorneys asked Shay's counsel to stipulate to a dismissal of their clients, rather than entering a Judgment. Shay's counsel agreed and the settling parties executed a settlement that included a release. The Release Document had standard "boilerplate" language giving up Shay's claims against all of the rest of the world.
Immediately after the Allen Park settlement was final, Aldrich, Plemons and Miller sought dismissal of the claims against them, based on the language in the release. Even though neither party to the release intended this outcome (or at least the Allen Park attorneys couldn't ADMIT they intended this outcome) the Court enforced the release language to wipe out Shay's claim against the Melvindale officers as well as the settling officers. Shay's claims that had been objectively evaluated as being worth almost $1.5 million dollars in total were compromised and extinguished by payment of $25,000.00 dollars, because of some boiler plate language not stricken from a Release. Prior to the 1999 tort "reform" decision in Romska v. Opper, Michigan courts followed the practice of allowing revision of the release document when something like this occurred: most other states continue to follow that practice. Our courts don't.