Amicus Brief

Estate of Stephen Bradley v Kent County Sheriff’s Department

Case Year: 2012
Case Forum: Michigan Supreme Court
Keywords: governmental immunity, Governmental Tort Liability Act (GTLA), Michigan Legislature
Amicus Counsel:

Mary Massaron Ross | Hilary A. Ballentine | Plunkett Cooney | 535 Griswold St, Suite 2400 | Detroit, MI 48226 | 313-983-4801

CoAmicus Parties:

1. Michigan Municipal Leage Liability & Property Pool (Pool)
2. Michigan Townships Association (MTA)
3. State Bar of Michigan Public Corporation Law Section (PCLS)


The Michigan Legislature enacted the Governmental Tort Liability Act (GTLA) in order to provide immunity for governmental parties from tort liability, from which there are only a few exceptions not at issue here. Tort law has a broad definition that incudes claims for “all civil wrongs.” As such, the GTLA grants governmental parties immunity from all tort liability, including civil contempt at issue here. Although the courts exercise the contempt power, the Michigan contempt statute functions in the same way that tort law does, in that it enables individuals who have suffered damages to receive compensation. It is well established that a court must disregard the label of a claim and focus on the substance of a claim. In an attempt to circumvent governmental immunity for tort liability, the Plaintiff in this case brought their claim under the civil contempt statute when it should have been brought under the tort of wrongful death, and thus barred by immunity. If the Court of Appeals’ decision is not overturned, it will allow plaintiffs to circumvent governmental immunity from tort liability, subjecting governmental parties to increased litigation contrary to the intent of the Michigan Legislature.


Judgment of the Court of Appeals reversed; case remanded to the probate court for entry of an order granting summary disposition in favor of the sheriff’s department.

MSC requested LDF amicus brief? No

Petitioner, Stephen Bradley’s sister, filed a Petition for Hospitalization in the Kent County Probate Court on August 12, 2004, requesting that the court enter an order requiring a
peace officer to take Mr. Bradley into custody for purposes of a psychiatric evaluation. On the same day, the Probate Court entered an order providing that a “peace officer shall take Mr.
Bradley into protective custody and transport him to the [Cornerstone/any CMH Contract Facility].” After receiving the Order, Petitioner submitted it to the Sheriffs Department for execution. However, the Order was not immediately executed, and Mr. Bradley took his own life on August 21, 2004.

Case Number: 2011-13
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