Torts Keyed to Henderson
Solomon v. Shuell
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Police officers were arresting robbery suspects. The officers were not in uniform. Solomon (Plaintiff), apparently thinking that the suspects needed help, came out of his house with a gun. He was shot and killed by one of the officers. Suit was brought on Plaintiff’s behalf. Shuell and the other defendants (Defendants) pleaded comparative fault. A jury trial was held. The trial court instructed the jury that, if Plaintiff was in imminent and serious peril while going to the rescue of the suspects who were negligent, then Plaintiff could not be held contributorily negligent unless his rescue attempt was recklessly or rashly made. The standard jury instruction provides that one who attempts to rescue another who is in imminent and serious peril that is caused by another’s negligence is not contributorily negligent unless the rescue attempt was made recklessly or rashly. Plaintiff objected to the jury instruction. Plaintiff’s objection was based upon two arguments: 1) that the victim need not be in actual danger and 2) that the instruction should have stated “comparative fault” rather than “contributory negligence.” The trial court overruled the objection. The jury returned a verdict finding fault on behalf of all of the parties to the lawsuit, including Plaintiff. Plaintiff’s recovery was reduced according to the comparative fault statutes. Plaintiff appealed. The appeals court affirmed and held that the jury instruction was erroneous, but harmless because Plaintiff’s case was properly presented to the jury and the jury was properly instructed in comparative fault. Plaintiff appealed to the Michigan Supreme Court.
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