Brewer jabbed at Michigan Supreme Court Justice Robert P. Young Jr. in a press release issued yesterday. Young, who is running for re-election to the MSC this fall, doesn’t care about the average working Joe or Josephine, says Brewer.
Young, along with a majority of the justices, reversed the Michigan Court of Appeals in Alderman v. J.C. Development Communities, a construction-accident case in which Randy Alderman, a subcontractor’s employee, was badly burned when a crane hit a power line.
- (1) that the defendant contractor failed to take reasonable steps within its supervisory and coordinating authority;
- (2) to guard against readily observable and avoidable dangers;
- (3) that created a high degree of risk to a significant number of workers; and
- (4) in a common work area.
Judge Edward Sosnick of the Oakland County Circuit Court said Alderman hadn’t made his case, reasoning that Alderman and the other five members of his crew were the only ones in the area. According to Sosnick:
At most, six employees of one subcontractor were exposed to the risk of electrocution. This is not sufficient to establish a common work area.
The COA panel, Judges Donald S. Owens, Deborah A. Servitto and Elizabeth L. Gleicher, disagreed.
Plaintiff presented evidence that this construction project was rather large and that his employer was not the only subcontractor working in the vicinity of the power lines on the date of this accident. …
Plaintiff’s crew may have been the only subcontractors working on lot 273 when the accident occurred, but the power lines did not merely run along the one lot. They ran along several lots under active construction, and electricity is commonly understood to be hazardous.
The crane could easily have torn down the power lines, creating a hazard to anyone within striking distance of the fallen lines, or could have caused a fire. The risk of harm associated with a crane hitting the power lines is high and is not as narrow as defendant would suggest.
The risk at issue is the potential harm to be had if the crane hit the power lines — not merely the harm to be had if the crane made contact with the power lines and someone was involved in the electrical circuit between the power lines the crane.
In an order issued last week, Young and four other justices reversed, using language that generally tracked Sosnick’s when he initially dismissed the case:
The risk of injury at issue here was the risk of electrocution from a subcontractor’s crane coming into contact with power lines above the construction site.
The only employees exposed to the risk of electrocution were two to six employees of one subcontractor, including the plaintiff, and therefore there was not a high degree of risk to a significant number of workers.
Brewer, on the Democratic Party’s website, was quick to pounce, painting Young as a friend of insurance and business interests and a working-class enemy:
On Law Day, which is intended to celebrate the benefits to all Americans of the American legal system, Michigan Supreme Court Justice Bob Young again denies those benefits to injured workers.
In an order released Friday, April 30th, Young and his colleagues denied relief to a construction worker, severely burned and nearly electrocuted on the job, because there was “not a high degree of risk to a significant number of workers.” …
“If six employees at risk of electrocution is ‘not a high degree of risk to a significant number of employees’ according to Young, how many workers doing what dangerous job is enough?” asked Michigan Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer. …
“To Young, only insurance companies, corporations and their CEO’s, the people who fund his campaigns, are entitled to legal protection.”
But Brewer’s rhetoric proves a little too much.
Could you imagine Brewer leveling the same broadside against MSC Justice Michael F. Cavanagh, who has had the warm support of the Democratic Party in elections past? Not in this lifetime.
But Cavanagh joined Young, and Justices Elizabeth A. Weaver, Maura D. Corrigan and Stephen J. Markman in reversing the COA and reinstating Sosnick’s dismissal. Chief Justice Marilyn Kelly and Justice Diane M. Hathaway would have denied leave to appeal the COA’s decision.
That might make one think that Alderman is not about one justice looking for an opportunity to kick someone when they are down and, instead, is better understood as a principled disagreement about the scope of a legal doctrine that forecloses one avenue of relief.
The silly season of politics is upon us.
Mark Brewer is an embarrassment to the Michigan Democratic Party.
This isn’t “silly politics” — it’s outright deceitful.
Mark Brewer’s lies continue. Justice Young and his colleagues in the majority on this case (including a Democrat, Justice Cavanagh) made a reasonable decision that follows the LAW, not any special interest (like the plaintiff bar). Justice Young’s decisions routinely follow what the law requires and apply the policies that WE, THE PEOPLE, through our elected representatives, chose to enact, and not his own political beliefs. That is why I am an enthusiastic Young supporter: because he knows the responsibilities and limitations of a judge’s authority.
I wonder if Mark Brewer even reads these opinions before he reflexively launches in to an anti-Young tirade. (If he did he would learn that the six employees in this case were all working for the same sub-contractor, who had control over the construction site, and who did fully compensate the victim through worker’s comp; the Court didn’t “deny benefits to injured workers” as Brewer claims. As any law student could tell you, the Court got it right by dismissing the suit against the general contractor!)
His deceptions helped sink Taylor in 08, and it looks like same type of thing this year. Anything for him to score a political point–this is what is broken and wrong about politics today.
Young’s so-called scholarly attempts to distinguish between “traditionalism” or “strict constructionalism” and “liberal activism” is merely rhetorical pettifoggery to justify conservative activism. Scalia, Alito and Roberts write decisions that are as egregiously activist as those of Justice Brennan or the Warren court. The Michigan “majority of four” just wrap their rationales in “original intent” the way scoundrels always wrap themselves in the Stars & Stripes and hold up a cross. It just won’t wash and when the linens are hung in the sun, the stains remain on Michigan jurisprudence.