Amicus Brief

Dean v Childs and Royal Oak Charter Township

Case Year: 2004
Case Forum: Michigan Supreme Court
Keywords: proximate cause, absolute immunity, public duty doctrine, gross negligence, Government Tort Liability Act (GTLA)
Amicus Counsel:

Julie McCann O’Connor (P38484) | James I DeGrazia (P22853) | O’Connor, DeGrazia, Tamm & O’Connor, P.C. | 4111 Andover Road Suite 300 East | Bloomfield Hills MI 48302 | 248-433-2000

CoAmicus Parties:

Michigan Townships Association (MTA)


One of the issues raised by this appeal involves the interpretation of the employee immunity provision of the governmental tort liability statute. The statute, MCl 691.1407(2)
provides that an employee is entitled to immunity if he or she satisfies the three requirements of the statute. Robinson v City of Detroit concluded that the Legislature intended to provide tort immunity for government employees unless their conduct “amounts to gross negligence that is the one most immediate, efficient, and direct cause of the injury or damage, i.e., the proximate cause.” In Robinson, the police officer’s pursuit of the fleeing vehicle was not, as a matter of law, “the proximate cause” of plaintiff’s injuries. The one most immediate, efficient, and direct cause of plaintiff’s injuries was the reckless conduct of the drivers of the fleeing vehicles. In the present case, the one most immediate, efficient, and direct cause of the decedents’ injuries was not the attempt of Defendant Childs to fight the fire, but rather, the fire itself, or if it was proven to be set by an arsonist, the conduct of that person.


Michigan Supreme Court:
On October 18, 2005, the Court heard oral argument on the application for leave to appeal the May 13, 2004 judgment of the Court of Appeals. On order of the Court, the application for leave to appeal is again considered and, pursuant to MCR 7.302(G)(1), in lieu of granting leave to appeal, for the reasons stated by dissenting Court of Appeals Judge Griffin, we REVERSE in part the Court of Appeals judgment and REMAND this case to the Oakland Circuit Court for entry of an order granting defendant Childs’ motion for summary disposition of plaintiff’s state law claims. We do not retain jurisdiction.

MSC requested LDF amicus brief? No

Marie Dean’s home in Royal Oak Township was set on fire in April 2000. The fire was allegedly started by an arsonist. Initially the fire was limited to the front of the house. Dean escaped while a firefighter attempted to rescue her 4 children trapped in the rear of the house. Jeffrey Childs, the firefighter in charge, ignored a fire hydrant directly across the street from the buming
house, choosing instead to connect to a hydrant a block away. Although Childs was infonned of the rescue attempt at the rear of the home, he ordered the crew to fight the fire by shooting water at the front of the house which forced the fire and smoke toward the rear of the home. The children died in the fire.

Case Number: 2004-01
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