Hurt v. Michael's Food Center, Inc.

Decision Date22 November 1996
Docket Number174193,Docket Nos. 174184
Citation220 Mich.App. 169,559 N.W.2d 660
PartiesVincent HURT and Darrell Hicks, Plaintiffs-Appellees/Cross-Appellants, v. MICHAEL'S FOOD CENTER, INC., Defendant-Appellant/Cross-Appellee. Vincent HURT, Plaintiff-Cross-Appellee, and Darrell Hicks, Plaintiff-Appellant/Cross-Appellee, v. MICHAEL'S FOOD CENTER, INC., Defendant-Appellee/Cross-Appellant.
CourtCourt of Appeal of Michigan — District of US

Raymond E. Willis, Detroit, for Plaintiffs-Appellees/Cross-Appellants.

O'Leary, O'Leary, Jacobs, Mattson, Perry & Mason, P.C. by John P. Jacobs, Southfield, for Defendant-Appellant/Cross-Appellee.

Before WAHLS, P.J., and FITZGERALD and L.P. BORRELLO, * JJ.

PER CURIAM.

Following a jury trial in December 1989, the 36th District Court entered judgments of $115,000 in favor of plaintiff Vincent Hurt and $175,000 in favor of plaintiff Darrell Hicks. On appeal, the Wayne Circuit Court affirmed Hurt's judgment, but reversed Hicks' judgment on the ground that defendant Michael Food Centers, Inc., was denied a fair trial when Hicks' time-barred claim for false imprisonment went to the jury along with his claim of malicious prosecution and remanded Hicks' case for further proceedings in the district court. In these consolidated cases, defendant appeals by leave granted, and plaintiffs cross appeal, the circuit court's affirmance of Hurt's judgment, while Hicks appeals on leave granted, and defendant cross appeals, the circuit court's reversal of Hicks' judgment. We affirm the reversal of Hicks' judgment, reverse the affirmance of Hurt's judgment, and remand both cases for further proceedings in the district court.

A

The instant cases arise out of the arrest of plaintiffs by a security guard at defendant's store for shoplifting a jar of peanut butter on February 24, 1983. At trial, plaintiffs denied that they stole the jar of peanut butter, whereas defendant claimed it had probable cause to arrest plaintiffs for shoplifting. Plaintiffs testified that they entered the store to purchase a pack of cigarettes and walked out of the store together without making a purchase. According to defendant's stockboy, Hicks took a jar of peanut butter and the stockboy informed the store's security guard, who followed plaintiffs outside. The security guard testified that he saw Hicks take the jar of peanut butter out from under his jacket and toss it into the car. When plaintiffs refused to return to the store, the security guard grabbed Hurt as Hicks ran away. The security guard testified that after finding the jar of peanut butter in the car, he handcuffed Hurt and took him into the store, informing him that he was under arrest for shoplifting. According to plaintiffs, defendant's security guard followed them into the parking lot and had a verbal confrontation with Hicks, who ran to the end of the parking lot when he saw that the security guard had a gun. Hurt testified that the security guard then took out his gun and grabbed him around the neck. The stockboy and the security guard denied that the guard drew his gun on plaintiffs.

Shortly thereafter, Hicks returned to the store and was apprehended by the stockboy. Plaintiffs were then taken to a back room of the store. According to plaintiffs, the security guard, brandishing his gun, handcuffed them to a pole or ladder. Hicks testified that the security guard accused him of taking the jar of peanut butter but could not find it after searching his jacket. Plaintiffs testified that they were at the store for 1 1/2 to 2 hours before they were taken to the police station. According to defendant's stockboy, plaintiffs were at the store for about fifteen or twenty minutes before the police arrived. Hurt was released uncharged after spending a half-hour at the police station, while Hicks was charged with the misdemeanor offense of larceny under $100 and released after spending about 1 1/2 hours at the station. Subsequently, the misdemeanor charge against Hicks was dismissed.

Hurt testified that he felt pain when he was first grabbed by the security guard and that he was frightened when the guard had the gun in his face, causing an "emotional problem ... since that now I can't stand security guards" because he feels they look at him for no reason. However, on cross-examination, Hurt admitted that he had worked as a security guard on two occasions after the incident. Hurt also testified that he felt embarrassed because people were looking at him when he was handcuffed in the store and when he was led out of the store handcuffed. Hicks testified that he also felt upset, humiliated, and embarrassed because he had to walk through the store handcuffed. Hicks testified that he was upset about the incident until the end of 1983 and that he sometimes had nightmares "about being in prison and things like that." On cross-examination, Hicks acknowledged that the incident was "the most stressful thing that's ever happened to [him]."

On February 25, 1985, Hurt filed his original complaint in the circuit court alleging false imprisonment and assault and battery. In an amended complaint filed on March 18, 1985, Hicks was added as a party plaintiff alleging false imprisonment and malicious prosecution. Subsequently, the circuit court denied defendant's motion for summary disposition, rejecting its claim that Hicks' false imprisonment claim was time-barred. After the parties rejected the mediation evaluation, the case was remanded to the district court for trial.

B

In its direct appeal, defendant argues that the trial court committed error when it disallowed the use of evidence of Hicks' 1985 armed robbery conviction for the purpose of impeachment under MRE 609 and as substantive evidence with regard to the issue of Hicks' damages. The district court disallowed the use of evidence of the conviction on the ground that it was not relevant because the conviction occurred after the alleged shoplifting incident. The circuit court, sitting as an appellate court, held:

This Court concludes that the Trial Court did not use [the] proper criteria for its denying the admission of Hicks' conviction for robbery armed for the purpose of challenging his credibility under MRE 609 and therefore in this respect abused its discretion. The Trial Court did not discuss the probative value of the theft element of robbery armed on the issue of credibility, or the extent to which the prejudicial affect [sic] of admitting the conviction might outweigh such probative value. The Court further concludes that the Trial Court did use proper criteria (under MRE 403) for the exclusion of the prior conviction for the purpose of challenging Hicks' damage claim and did not abuse its discretion in excluding the conviction as it related to damages.

While the circuit court properly ruled that the trial court abused its discretion under MRE 609 in refusing to admit evidence of Hicks' 1985 conviction of armed robbery for the purpose of impeachment, we conclude that the error required reversal with respect to both plaintiffs. We also conclude that the trial court abused its discretion in excluding evidence of Hicks' conviction as substantive evidence related to Hicks' damages.

MRE 609 provides in pertinent part:

(a) General rule. For the purpose of attacking the credibility of a witness, evidence that the witness has been convicted of a crime shall not be admitted unless the evidence has been elicited from the witness or established by public record during cross examination, and

* * * * * *

(2) the crime contained an element of theft, and

(A) the crime was punishable by imprisonment in excess of one year or death under the law under which the witness was convicted, and

(B) the court determines that the evidence has significant probative value on the issue of credibility and, if the witness is the defendant in a criminal trial, the court further determines that the probative value of the evidence outweighs its prejudicial effect.

(b) Determining probative value and prejudicial effect. For the purposes of the probative value determination required by subrule (a)(2)(B), the court shall consider only the age of the conviction and the degree to which a conviction of the crime is indicative of veracity. If a determination of prejudicial effect is required, the court shall consider only the conviction's similarity to the charged offense and the possible effects on the decisional process if admitting the evidence causes the defendant to elect not to testify. The court must articulate, on the record, the analysis of each factor.

(c) Time limit. Evidence of a conviction under this rule is not admissible if a period of more than ten years has elapsed since the date of the conviction or of the release of the witness from the confinement imposed for that conviction, whichever is the later date.

In People v. Allen, 429 Mich. 558, 608, 420 N.W.2d 499 (1988), the Supreme Court held:

[W]here a party seeks to impeach a nonaccused witness, the bright lines will apply. Where the relevant offense is a theft crime, the judge need only determine that the prior offense, in light of its nature and vintage, is significantly probative of veracity. If so, the impeachment evidence should be admitted. If not, it should be excluded.

The Court also added:

We continue the ten-year cutoff for the use of any prior convictions. In addition, for those theft convictions occurring less than ten years prior to the relevant case the vintage of the prior conviction and the defendant's behavior subsequent to that conviction are relevant to probativeness. [Id. at 606, n. 32, 420 N.W.2d 499].

In the instant case, it was undisputed that Hicks' 1985 armed robbery conviction was established by public record, contained an element of theft, and was punishable by imprisonment in excess of one year. However, contrary to the circuit court's statement, ...

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  • Cowles v. Bank West
    • United States
    • Michigan Supreme Court
    • July 27, 2006
    ...relation-back doctrine does not apply to the claims of nonparties and does not extend to new parties. Hurt v. Michael's Food Ctr., Inc., 220 Mich.App. 169, 179, 559 N.W.2d 660 (1996). It concluded, however, that Paxson was not a new party because she was a member of the originally asserted ......
  • Slater v. Skyhawk Transportation, Inc., Civil Action No. 97-1853 (D. N.J. 5/4/1999)
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    • U.S. District Court — District of New Jersey
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    ...transaction, or occurrence set forth, or attempted to be set forth, in the original pleading. See also Hurt v. Michael's Food Center, Inc., 559 N.W.2d 660, 665 (Mich. Ct. App. 1996) (quoting the text of the rule). In interpreting this Rule, however, the Michigan Court of Appeals has determi......
  • Cowles v. Bank West
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Michigan — District of US
    • October 13, 2004
    ...the number of class members. The relation-back doctrine does not apply to the addition of new parties. Hurt v. Michael's Food Ctr., Inc., 220 Mich.App. 169, 179, 559 N.W.2d 660 (1996); Yudashkin v. Holden (On Remand), 247 Mich.App. 642, 649, 637 N.W.2d 257 (2001). In Arneil v. Ramsey, 550 F......
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    ...transaction, or occurrence set forth, or attempted to be set forth, in the original pleading. See also Hurt v. Michael's Food Center, Inc., 559 N.W.2d 660, 665 (Mich. Ct. App. 1996) (quoting the text of the rule). In interpreting this Rule, however, the Michigan Court of Appeals has determi......
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    ...Some states impose a limitations period as short as one year, while others provide for three years. Hurt v. Michael’s Food Center , 220 Mich. App. 169, 178, 559 N. W. 2d 660, 665-666 (Mich. 1996) (two years); Retterer v. Whirlpool Corp. , 677 N.E.2d 417, 422 (Ohio 1996) (one year), citing R......

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