February 24, 2010 — A critical reconsideration in the Trentadue case

The Michigan Supreme Court has decided that it’s going to take another look at one of its recent decisions, the Trentadue case. In that 2007 decision, the High Court, under the leadership of then-Chief Justice Cliff Taylor, ruled that a daughter could not bring suit against the employer of her mother’s murderer because a term of more than three years had elapsed. …Never mind that the daughter didn’t know who had killed her mother for more than a decade after it happened. This was a cold case that bears more than passing similarity to the murder of Janet Chandler. More than 27 years would pass before Jim and Glenna Chandler had any measure of criminal justice in the matter. If they had wanted to sue within the first three years they would not have known whom to sue. Only after the case was decided against the six now in prison for Janet’s murder could they have made that judgement. Their assessment was that Wackenhut, the company that had hired their daughter’s murderers (five out of the six held responsible by the law; there are The Others), bore some responsibility, especially given testimony from the witness stand that the guard company, a paramilitary organization, was the last stop for drunks and druggers (per supervisor Glenn L. Johnson). …That and the fact that the head of the detail, the man entrusted to hold the company line, was THE ONE who organized and hosted the murder party. Carl Paiva was THEIR guy.

The Trentadue decision became the law of that land with only Justices Betty Weaver and Marilyn Kelly writing their dissent. And the current court has only one personnel change…Justice Diane Hathaway in for former Justice Cliff Taylor. That’s still not a majority. That means that somebody is going to have to change his or her vote. And given that Justices Young and Corrigan have dissented from the measure to reconsider, I’m pretty sure it won’t be them. Nor do I think Republican Stephen Markman will go that way. That means it’s down to Justice Cavanagh. Although he didn’t write a dissent he DID vote against the verdict in 2007 and voted to reconsider it, too.

This should be interesting. But it represents the best chance for the Chandlers in their drive in a civil suit to hold a corporation responsible in some measure for their daughter’s murder. If Trentadue is overturned they might at least have their day in a civil court.

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