Placek v. City of Sterling Heights, Docket No. 15735

Decision Date29 April 1974
Docket NumberDocket No. 15735,No. 2,2
Citation52 Mich.App. 619,217 N.W.2d 900
PartiesPatricia PLACEK and Joseph Placek, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. CITY OF STERLING HEIGHTS and Richard Milton Ernst, jointly and severally, Defendants-Appellees
CourtCourt of Appeal of Michigan — District of US

Michael H. Feiler, Lopatin, Miller, Bindes & Freedman, Detroit, for plaintiffs-appellants.

W. J. Zotter, Detroit, for defendants-appellees.

Before V. J. BRENNAN, P.J., and BRONSON and CARLAND,* JJ.

BRONSON, Judge.

This automobile negligence case arose out of an automobile collision which occurred on April 8, 1970, in the City of Sterling Heights. Defendant Ernst was employed by defendant City of Sterling Heights as a police officer and was driving a vehicle owned by defendant city at the time of the accident. On October 16, 1972, a jury verdict of no cause of action was returned against plaintiffs, Patricia and Joseph Placek. From this verdict, plaintiffs have appealed.

Although plaintiffs raise three allegations of error on appeal, we find one decisional:

WHETHER THE TRIAL COURT COMMITTED REVERSIBLE ERROR IN ALLOWING PLAINTIFF PATRICIA PLACEK TO BE QUESTIONED ON HER FAILURE TO WEAR A SEAT BELT AND SHOULDER HARNESS.

During cross-examination of Mrs. Placek, defense counsel asked whether she was wearing a seat belt at the time of the accident. Following plaintiff's negative reply, her attorney objected and moved to have the answer stricken as immaterial. The trial judge overruled the objection. The court declared that everyone knew what the law was and, if there was any question concerning the matter, the jury could be properly instructed.

Defense counsel then asked Mrs. Placek whether she was wearing a shoulder harness at the time of the accident. Plaintiff's counsel again objected to the entire line of questioning as being immaterial. In allowing the question, the trial court stated:

'She may answer whether she had any on. I'll tell the jury later that the law says you don't have to wear a seat belt and you don't have to wear a harness and it's not negligence if you don't, that's the law in Michigan.'

The trial court never instructed the jury with respect to a person's failure to wear a seat belt or shoulder harness as not being negligence under Michigan law.

In holding that a failure to wear a seat belt was neither evidence of contributory negligence nor a factor to be used in mitigating damages, I agreed with Judge Fitzgerald in Romankewiz v. Black, 16 Mich.App. 119, 125--126, 167 N.W.2d 606 (1969), wherein we stated:

'To impose a standard on a plaintiff and submit to a jury the question of contributory negligence for non-use of seat belts (when perhaps only 2 or 3 of that jury use belts) stretches too far the facts of automobile travel today and, indeed, common-sense rules of statutory construction by implication.

'The proliferation of devices to...

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12 cases
  • Lowe v. Estate Motors Ltd.
    • United States
    • Michigan Supreme Court
    • October 12, 1987
    ...it could consider the failure to wear a seat belt in determining the amount of damages. Four years later, in Placek v. Sterling Heights, 52 Mich.App. 619, 217 N.W.2d 900 (1974), the Court of Appeals ordered a new trial because the plaintiff had been questioned concerning her failure to use ......
  • Kopischke v. First Continental Corp.
    • United States
    • Montana Supreme Court
    • May 22, 1980
    ...v. Moore (1973), 183 Colo. 392, 517 P.2d 458; Nash v. Kamrath (1974), 21 Ariz.App. 530, 521 P.2d 161; Placek v. City of Sterling Heights (1974), 52 Mich.App. 619, 217 N.W.2d 900; Robinson v. Lewis (1969), 254 Or. 52, 457 P.2d 483; Selgado v. Commercial Warehouse Company (1975), 88 N.M. 579,......
  • Placek v. City of Sterling Heights, Docket No. 59710
    • United States
    • Michigan Supreme Court
    • February 8, 1979
    ...that the trial court had erred in allowing plaintiff to be questioned as to whether she wore a seat belt. Placek v. City of Sterling Heights, 52 Mich.App. 619, 217 N.W.2d 900 (1974). The second trial took place in May, 1975, and again resulted in a verdict of no cause of action against plai......
  • Mann v. ST. CLAIR CTY. RD. COMM.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Michigan — District of US
    • February 20, 2003
    ...(1979). Coincidentally, Placek was a "seat belt defense" case when it first came to the Court of Appeals. See Placek v. Sterling Heights, 52 Mich.App. 619, 217 N.W.2d 900 (1974). The Court of Appeals found that the defendant's reference to the plaintiff's failure to wear a safety belt was i......
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