LANSING, Mich. — Today in the Michigan State Supreme Court, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, for the first time in its nearly 200-year history, they conducted oral argument remotely. Shane Hilyard of the The Gallagher Law Firm, PLC talks about the case & his experience.
There are two cases being argued, today, via Zoom and streamed live on the Michigan Supreme Court’s YouTube page. There will also be other cases being argued on April 22. The first case, Voutsaras v Bender, and the attorneys for the respective parties will carry the distinction of being the first attorneys in Michigan history to argue his or her case in this manner.
With the case in question, the outcome of the Michigan Supreme Court’s decision holds great significance, and depending on how the Justices rule, could also be historic. If the Supreme Court rules in favor of the Estate, the long-standing witness immunity doctrine will forever be changed and there will be newly created law in Michigan.
About Voutsaras v Bender
Gallagher Investments held a note on the mortgage of Diana Voutsaras, deceased, and her husband, Spiro Voutsaras. Gallagher Investments brought a foreclosure action and the Voutsarases, relying on their expert witnesses and attorneys, filed a third-party claim against Gallagher Investments and others, alleging professional malpractice. Diana, throughout the litigation was undergoing treatment for and suffering from the grave effects of cancer. The Voutsarases’ experts included an attorney and a real estate broker whom provided pre-trial consultation, litigation support, and to give expert testimony at trial. The Voutsarases’ attorney informed them that the litigation strategy was doomed to fail. The trial court granted Gallagher Investments’ and others’ motion for summary disposition against the Voutsarases’ in the foreclosure action.
Diana Lykos Voutsaras died in January 2015 and her estate filed a malpractice action against her attorneys, the attorney-expert, and the expert real estate broker that the Voutsarases retained for themselves to provide the aforementioned services. The Estate alleged the that the retained experts failed to provide their services within the standard of care of professionals in his or her field. The trial court held that the experts were entitled to witness immunity, and granted summary disposition in the experts’ favor. The Estate appealed and the Michigan Court of Appeals, in a published opinion, reversed and remanded the case holding that “licensed professionals owe the same duty to the party for whom they testify as they would to any client and that witness immunity is not a defense against professional malpractice.”
The Michigan Supreme Court ordered oral argument of the experts’ application for leave to appeal and to answer the question: “Does the privilege of witness immunity extend to retained expert witnesses sue for professional malpractice?”
You can watch the oral arguments on the Michigan Supreme Court's YouTube page.
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