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Defendant Entitled to Governmental Immunity Under Narrow Definition of Proximate Cause

By FindLaw Staff on April 13, 2010 3:08 PM

Smith v. County of Lenawee, No. 09-1703, concerned an action brought by a deceased plaintiff's estate against a county and various agents of the county sheriff's department and department of corrections for the death of the plaintiff while in custody of the sheriff's department. 

As stated in the decision: "[T]he facts show that Smith had been experiencing DT symptoms for close to forty-eight hours prrior to Moore's arrival at the jail, that a physician had been notified of Smith's condition, that jail officials were told to monitor Smith, and that Moore was present at the jail for a matter of minutes only."

Thus in applying the facts to Michigan's narrow definition of proximate cause for the purposes of governmental immunity, which is defined as "the one most immediate, efficient, and direct cause preceding an injury," the court reversed the district court's denial of defendant-parole agent's motion for summary judgment as his actions were not the proximate cause of plaintiff's death and is thus entitled to governmental immunity.

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