Amicus Brief

Estate of William T. Beals v State of Michigan and William J. Harmon

Case Year: 2015
Case Forum: Michigan Supreme Court
Keywords: proximate cause, governmental immunity, gross negligence
Amicus Counsel:

Rosalind Rochkind (P23504) | Garan Lucow Miller, P.C. | 1000 Woodbridge Street | Detroit, MI 48207-3108 | 313-446-5522 |
[email protected]

CoAmicus Parties:

1. Michigan Municipal League Liability & Property Pool
2. Michigan Townships Association (MTA)


When a governmental employee’s conduct has been questioned, examination of the causative element requires that the conduct constitute “the proximate cause” before (as a matter of policy) liability may be imposed. Under the facts of this case, Harman’s inaction does not constitute the “most immediate, efficient, and direct cause” of Beals’s drowning. Stated simply, that Harman breached his duty does not necessarily entail that his inaction was the most direct cause of Beals’s drowning. Indeed, Harman did not cause Beals’s drowning; he merely failed to observe it happening and to attempt a rescue in response.


Supreme Court reversed in part and remanded case to Circuit Court for entry of an order granting summary disposition in favor of defendant.

MSC requested LDF amicus brief? No

William Beals drowned while swimming in a pool at the Michigan Career and Technical Institute, a state residential facility, which provides vocational and technical training to students with disabilities. Harman was the only lifeguard on duty when the drowning occurred. Plaintiff accused the state of violating the Persons with Disabilities Civil Rights Act (PDCRA), MCL 37.1101 et seq., and accused Harman of gross negligence.

Case Number: 2014-18
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