Injured? Contact Sinas Dramis for a free consultation.


Migdalewicz v. Hollie, et al. (COA – UNP 1/28/2020; RB #4028)


Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket # 343981; Unpublished
Judges Riordan, Sawyer, and Jansen; Per curiam
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: Not Applicable; Link to Opinion; Link to Dissent

Causation Issues [§3135]

Evidentiary Issues

In this majority unpublished per curiam decision (Jansen, dissenting) arising out of a third-party automobile negligence action, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s entry of judgment in favor of the defendant, Perry D. Hollie, following a jury trial.  Hollie conceded that although he was a cause in fact of the subject bicycle-versus-motor vehicle crash, he was not a proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries.  The plaintiff, Matthew Migdalewicz, argued that because Hollie admitted that he caused the crash, the trial court should have granted Migdalewicz’s motion for directed verdict, for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, and/or for a new trial.  The Court of Appeals disagreed, noting the distinction between cause in fact and proximate cause, and finding sufficient evidence in support of the jury’s verdict in favor of Hollie.

Migdalewicz was riding his bicycle without a helmet when he collided with Hollie’s vehicle as Hollie prepared to turn left at an intersection.  As a result of the crash, Hollie suffered numerous injuries, included a fractured femur, a fractured cervix, a fractured skull, a traumatic brain injury, a facial laceration, and memory loss.  At trial, Hollie did not dispute factual causation, but did dispute proximate cause.  He and Migdalewicz presented competing expert testimony on the issue of causation, and at the close of proofs, Migdalewicz moved for a directed verdict, arguing that Hollie had admitted he was a proximate cause of Migdalewicz’s injuries.  The trial court denied Migdalewicz’s motion, and ultimately, the jury rendered a verdict in favor of Hollie. Migdalewicz subsequently moved for JNOV or a new trial, both of which the trial court denied.

On appeal, Migdalewicz first argued that the trial court’s denials of his motion for directed verdict, for JNOV, and/or for a new trial were improper because Hollie admitted he was a cause of the crash.  The Court of Appeals disagreed, noting the distinction between cause in fact and proximate cause, and finding there to be sufficient evidence to support the jury’s conclusion in regards to the latter—specifically, whether the crash was foreseeable based on Hollie’s actions.

The proximate cause inquiry requires the Court to consider, viewing the evidence most favorably to the verdict, whether defendant should have reasonably foreseen that, by stopping with the front end of his car in the lane of oncoming traffic, a person could be injured, including a person who was not looking and did not see defendant’s car. Certainly, given that defendant did not see any oncoming traffic, a person stopping their vehicle over the center line for two or three seconds would reasonably anticipate based on ordinary human experience that there was no oncoming traffic and that any traffic that did appear would see and avoid him—in this way, a juror could honestly conclude that it was not reasonably foreseeable that stopping over the center line would cause injury to another. On the other hand, the facts favorable to the verdict also support a finding of proximate cause. It is also reasonably foreseeable in the instance that a driver stops over the center line for two to three seconds after not initially seeing any oncoming traffic, a collision causing injury could occur because, ordinary human experience would make one reasonably anticipate that oncoming traffic may be similarly distracted. In other words, if one places their vehicle within the lane of oncoming traffic and stops there, the negligence of other vehicular traffic in avoiding a collision, and consequent injury as a result, is foreseeable. Ultimately, because the jurors could have “honestly reached different conclusions [as to proximate cause under these facts], the jury verdict must stand.” Hecht, 499 Mich at 605-606. We thus conclude that the trial court’s denial of the plaintiff’s motion for JNOV was proper. Migdalewicz also argued that the trial court erred by precluding his argument that his level of fault for not wearing a helmet should be apportioned in accord with Michigan’s seat belt statute, which limits a plaintiff’s comparative negligence to five percent in situations where the plaintiff is injured while failing to wear a seat belt.  The Court of Appeals held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in precluding Migdalewicz from making such an argument, because allowing him to do so would only have created potential confusion, given that the seat-belt statute is inapplicable to the present matter.  It would also “improperly inject information regarding plaintiff’s level of fault based on a statute that is inapplicable.”

Migdalewicz also asserted two claims of instructional error, asserting that the trial court erred by “(1) providing the jury with M Civ JI 12.01, which allowed the jury to infer that plaintiff was negligent based on the marijuana test [Migdalewicz was given after the collision], and (2) giving the jury a special instruction that was not supported by the evidence.”  The Court of Appeals rejected both of these arguments, because (1) M Civ JI 12.01 is applicable whenever  “a person operates a motor vehicle with any amount of marijuana in their system,” regardless of whether the drug can definitively be said to have been a contributing cause of the accident, and (2) because the special instruction was supported by the evidence in the case.

Justice Jansen, dissenting, argued that she would have granted Migdalewicz’s motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, because, in her opinion, proximate cause was established as a matter of law.

Michigan auto accident attorney Stephen Sinas is the lead editor of the appellate case summaries published on this site regarding the Michigan auto insurance law. To learn more about how Stephen Sinas and how the Sinas Dramis Law Firm can help you if you have been injured in a Michigan auto accident, visit

Copyright © 2024  Sinas Dramis Law Firm, George Sinas, Stephen Sinas.
All Rights Reserved.
Login (Publishers Only)