Important Cases

Over the reach of our thirty six years in practice, Harvey Kruse has earned its well-deserved reputation as Michigan’s leading litigation firm.  Our acumen and dedication to our clients’ interests have resulted in more than 100 published appellate opinions, many of which broke new ground in Michigan law.  Below is a representative sample of the landmark decisions achieved through the hard work and skill of our attorneys:

Buschlen v Ford Motor Company, 421 Mich. 192, 364 N.W.2d 619 (1984), effectively ended die entrustment liability for automobile manufacturers in the state of Michigan in conjunction with Fredericks v General Motors, 411 Mich. 712, 311 N.W.2d 725 (1981).

Pritts v. J.I. Case Co., 108 Mich. App. 22, 310 N.W.2d 261 1981, lv den, 413 Mich. 909 (1982), reversed the long-standing precedent that a party could obtain contractual indemnity for its own negligence if that intent was specifically stated in an indemnity agreement, and created the new rule that an indemnity agreement requiring indemnity for “all claims” includes the indemnitee’s own negligence.

Manier v MIC General Insurance Corporation, 281 Mich App 485, 760 NW2d 293 (2008), first published case in Michigan enforcing a household exclusion in an automobile liability policy which limits liability coverage for any claim by the insured or any family member to the Michigan Financial Responsibility Law limits of $20,000/$40,000.  This is a very important decision, because it now allows insurers to enforce such exclusions in Michigan.

Leahan v Stroh Brewery Co., 420 Mich. 108, 359 N.W.2d 524 (1984), required plaintiff to tender back any consideration received under a release before challenging the validity of that release.

Staffney v Michigan Millers Insurance Co., 140 Mich. App. 85, 362 N.W.2d 897 (1985), lv den, 423 Mich. 851, 376 N.W.2d 113 (1985), in conjunction with Smith v Allendale Mutual, 410 Mich. 685 (1981), effectively ended liability for property insurers’ inspections of an insured’s premises.

Scott v Detroit, 113 Mich. App. 241, 318 N.W.2d 32 (1982), lv den 422 Mich. 892, 368 N.W.2d 236 (1985), in conjunction with Smith v Allendale Mutual, 410 Mich. 685 (1981), effectively ended the liability of workers’ compensation insurers for allegedly negligent safety inspections.

Tope v Waterford Hills Road Racing, 81 Mich. App. 591, 265 N.W.2d 761 (1978), enforced a pre-event/incident release agreement for the first time in Michigan.

Michigan Millers Mutual Insurance Co. v West Detroit Building Co., 196 Mich. App. 367, 494 N.W.2d 1 (1992), the first appellate case in Michigan to apply the contractors statute of repose, MCL 600.5839(1) to a claim by the owner for damage to the improvement itself.

Ford Motor Company v Insurance Company of North America, 157 Mich. App. 642, 403 N.W.2d 200 (1987), lv den 429 Mich. 853, 412 N.W.2d 220 (1987), established that loading or unloading of a motor vehicle is not a “use” of the motor vehicle for purpose of no fault property protection insurance benefits.

Alyas v Illinois Employers Insurance of Wausau, 208 Mich. App. 324, 527 N.W.2d 548 (1995); lv den, 451 Mich. 893, 549 N.W.2d 575 (1996), established that when a garnishee defendant denies a garnishment and files its garnishee disclosure, the plaintiff must proceed with discovery within 14 days or the garnishment disclosure shall be accepted as correct.

Wausau Underwriters Insurance Company v Ajax Paving Industries, Inc., 256 Mich. App. 646, 671 N.W.2d 539 (2003), lv den 469 Mich. 970, 671 N.W.2d 884 (2003), established that a contractual requirement to purchase insurance does not eliminate or replace a contractual indemnity agreement, thus allowing an insurer the right to seek contractual indemnity as subrogee of its insured.

Berger v Mead, 127 Mich. App. 209, 338 N.W.2d 919 (1983), established that a non-commercial joint venture and all of its employees were co-employees thereby barring the plaintiff’s tort claim under the exclusive remedy defense.

Thomas v Process Equipment, 154 Mich. App. 78, 397 N.W.2d 224 (1986), determined that filing a “John Doe” complaint does not toll the statute of limitations and the filing of an amended complaint specifically naming the defendants does not relate back to the original “John Doe” complaint.

Rasmussen v Louisville Ladder, 211 Mich. App. 541, 536 N.W.2d 221 (1995), applied collateral negligence rule to reverse plaintiffs’ verdicts totaling $5.5 million, holding that the owner was not responsible for inherently dangerous activities when an accident was caused by the collateral negligence of a subcontractor.

McMath v Ford Motor Company, 77 Mich. App. 721, 259 N.W.2d 140 (1977), held that partial performance of a contract as an exception to the statute of frauds does not apply to employment contracts for more than one year, and that allegations of reliance to support an estoppel claim must be definite and clear.

Ledl v Quik-Pik Food Stores, 133 Mich. App. 583, 349 N.W.2d 529 (1984), established that termination of employment for a store inventory shortage is not a “public policy” exception to the general rule that employment contracts are terminable at will; that allegations of defamation must set forth the defamatory words with specificity; and that there can be no intentional infliction of emotional distress if the actor was merely insisting upon its own legal rights.

Mahdesian v Joseph T. Ryerson & Son, 782 F. Supp. 63 (ED Mich., 1992); aff’d, 986 F.2d 1421 (6th Cir, 1993), established that plaintiff’s filing of a claim for no fault benefits for injuries incurred while unloading a truck in the course of his employment judicially estopped his tort claim alleging that he was an independent contractor.

Michigan Sugar v Employers Insurance of Wausau, 107 Mich. App. 9, 308 N.W.2d 684 (1981), recognized and enforced the “change in temperature” exclusion in an all risk policy, applying that exclusion where damage to sugar resulted from a change in temperature caused by a malfunctioning heating system.

Darin & Armstrong v Ben Agree Co., 88 Mich. App. 128, 276 N.W.2d 869 (1979), lv den 406 Mich. 1007 (1979), recognized that a general contractor’s liability for a construction accident in a common work area constituted active negligence, barring any claim for common law indemnity.

Nicklas v Joseph T. Ryerson & Son, 995 F.2d 1067 (6th Cir, 1994), recognized the significant bar against speculation and conjecture in product liability cases.

Gage v Ford Motor Company, 423 Mich. 250, 377 N.W.2d 709 (1985), established the proper method for computing interest under the 1980 amendment to the judgment interest statute which allowed for compounding of interest, and that there could be no compounding of any interest accrued before the effective date of the statute.

Harry v Fairlane Club Properties, 126 Mich. App. 122, 337 N.W.2d 1 (1983) established that a successor judge was not bound by and could grant a rehearing of his predecessor’s ruling on a material issue and that a jury need not receive exhibits they had requested before reaching its verdict.

West v Cyril J. Burke, Inc., 137 Mich. App. 191, 357 N.W.2d 856 (1984), lv den, 422 Mich. 852, 364 N.W.2d 286 (1985), established that a mobile crane (while being used to lift a load of pipe) was not a “motor vehicle” as defined by the Motor Vehicle Code.

Pioneer State Ins. Co. v Titan Ins. Co., 252 Mich. App. 330, 652 N.W.2d 469 (2002), established that the insurer of the owner or registrant of a motor vehicle involved in the accident is responsible for first-party benefits even where the motor vehicle is not listed as a “covered auto” in a policy of the owner or registrant.

Crosby v City of Detroit, 123 Mich. App. 213, 333 N.W.2d 557, lv den, 422 Mich. 891, 368 N.W.2d 231 (1985), established the standard for an intentional nuisance and that the construction of a sewer is a “governmental function,” not a “proprietary function” and thus entitled to the defense of governmental immunity.

Perry v INA Life Insurance Co., 749 F. Supp. 806 (W.D. Mich., 1989), aff’d 914 F2d 257 (1990), determined that acceptance of an offer of continued employment in another position barred the plaintiff from entitlement to severance benefits under an employers ERISA severance plan.

Schmidt v Wilbur, 775 F. Supp. 216 (E.D. Mich., 1991), the district court had personal jurisdiction over general partners of a limited partnership whose agent sold partnership interests in Michigan and that a defendant can be re-served with process following removal of a case from state to federal court.

Detroit Edison Co. v Nabco, Inc., 35 F.3d 236 (6th Cir. 1994), established the validity of the economic loss doctrine to bar a plaintiff’s claim under Michigan law. Reid v Allen, 124 Mich. App. 56, 333 N.W.2d 382 (1983), established the requirement of possession and control over a product was necessary before liability could attach.

Formella v Ciba-Geigy Corp., 100 Mich. App. 649, 300 N.W.2d 356 (1981), recognized that a physician’s excessive prescription of medication was the intervening cause of plaintiff’s injuries, precluding liability despite the defendant’s alleged “negligent promotion” of the medication.

Richland Knox Mutual Ins. Co. v Kallen, 376 F.2d 360 (6th Cir. 1967), determined the applicability of and differences between an auto liability policy and a homeowner’s liability policy and held that the throwing a firecracker from the back seat of an automobile was not an incident involving the use of a an automobile as a motor vehicle, that the location of the event was incidental, and as a result, no coverage would be provided by the automobile liability carrier’s policy of insurance.

Bachman v Progressive Casualty Insurance Co., 135 Mich. App. 641, 354 N.W.2d 292 (1984) construed the “involved in the accident” language of Michigan’s No Fault Act and noted there must be activity contributing to the occurrence of an accident for a motor vehicle to be “involved in” an accident.

Richard Nagy v Farmers Insurance Exchange, et al, 758 F.2d 189 (6th Cir, 1985) affirmed a carrier’s right to terminate an insurance agent under an agency agreement and MCL 500.1209(3) for switching insurance business under the pretext of complying with the Michigan Essential Insurance Act.

Novak v Nationwide Insurance Co., 235 Mich. App. 675, 599 N.W.2d 546 (1999), established that an insurance carrier did not violate the anti-redlining provisions of MCL 500.1209 when its termination of the agent was in conformity with MCL 500.1209(5); that the agent was not protected from termination by MCL 500.1209(3) or (4) which prevents termination based on geographic location or actual or expected loss experience; and that no cause of action existed under the Fair Housing Act, the Michigan Insurance Code, the agent termination and redlining provisions of MCL 500.1209, and the Civil Rights Act.

Portelli v IR Construction, 218 Mich. App. 591, 554 N.W.2d 591 (1996), lv. den., 456 Mich. 919, 573 N.W.2d 618 (1998), recognized the doctrines of sophisticated user and unreasonably foreseeable misuse in a construction industry setting to bar a worker’s claim.

Rand v Knapp Shoe Stores, 178 Mich. App. 735, 444 N.W.2d  156 (1989), established that a business owner had no duty concerning an adjacent property, even if in close proximity.

United Southern Assurance Co. v Aetna Life & Casualty Insurance Co., 189 Mich. App. 485, 474 N.W.2d 131 (1991), established that a “standing” motor vehicle is a “parked” motor vehicle under Michigan’s No Fault Act, thereby making the insurer of the striking motor vehicle responsible for the payment of property protection benefits to the trucking company.

Mallard v Hoffinger, 222 Mich. App. 137, 564 N.W.2d 74 (1997), established that the manufacturer of a “simple tool” (in this instance, an above-ground swimming pool) had no duty to design safety features to protect the users from injuries sustained by striking the bottom of their pool since the risk of harm is “open and obvious” to all.

Huggins v MIC Gen. Ins. Corp., 228 Mich. App. 84, 578 N.W.2d 326 (1998), recognized the automobile policy exclusion for a driver “using a vehicle without a reasonable belief that the person is entitled to do so” where an underage, unlicensed driver was operating a vehicle, albeit with the owner’s permission.

Auto-Owners Insurance Company v Michigan Mutual Insurance Company, 223 Mich. App. 205; 565 N.W.2d 907 (1997), established that an insurance policy issued after the date of loss did not estop the insurer from denying coverage, and that a binder issued by an independent insurance agent prior to the accident was not binding on an assigned risk insurer because the independent agent is the agent of the insured.

Wall v. Cherrydale Farms, Inc., 9 F. Supp. 2nd 784 (E.D. Mich. 1998), established that the Michigan non-party fault statutes, MCL 600.2957 and 600.6304, did not violate the Due Process or the Equal Protection clauses of the U. S. Constitution.

Gregory v Cincinnati, Inc., 451 Mich. 1, 538 N.W.2d 325 (1995), established that a manufacturer’s product must be judged at the time of manufacture, that a manufacturer did not have a continuing duty to repair or recall a product after it was sold, and that evidence of post-manufacture advances in technology for a product were not admissible in design defect cases.

Reeves v Cincinnati, Inc., 28 Mich. App. 556, 528 N.W.2d 787 (1995), established in a products liability matter that a defendant had no duty to warn of a latent defect when the jury found the product was not defectively designed.

Scott v Allen-Bradley Co., 139 Mich. App. 665, 362 N.W.2d 734 (1984),  established that in a products liability matter a plaintiff seeking to impose liability on a manufacturer because of an alleged defective design must present evidence concerning both magnitude of risk involved and reasonableness of any proposed alternative design.

Vincent v Allen-Bradley Co., 95 Mich. App. 426, 291 N.W.2d 66 (1980), established that misuse was a viable defense in products liability actions based on either negligent design or breach of warranty theories.

Hollister v. Dayton Hudson Corp., 201 F.3d 731 (6th Cir., 2000), established the elements of proof necessary to prevail on a product liability claim in Michigan.

Peck v. Bridgeport Machines, Inc., 237 F.3d 614 (6th Cir., 2001), along with Hollister, shaped the landscape of product liability under Michigan law by setting forth the elements required in all product liability actions under Michigan law.

Psaila v. Shiloh Industries, Inc., 258 Mich. App. 388 (2004), established that a statute requiring an employer to pay sales commissions within certain time frame to a terminated sales representatives did not provide “public policy” exception to “employment-at-will” doctrine.

Sturlese v. Six Chuter and AlliedSignal, Inc., 822 So.2d 173 (La. App. 3rd Cir., 2002), reh. den. (La. App. 3rd Cir., 2002), writ den. 829 So.2d 1049 (La. 2002), established that the standard for determining reasonably anticipated use is an objective standard determined from the point of view of the manufacturer at the time of manufacture.   A “foreseeable use” is not equivalent to a “reasonably anticipated use” under the Louisiana Product Liability Act.  Plaintiff sustained paraplegia in an ultra-light aircraft accident and sought more than $15 million in damages.

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