Subjective Good Faith Exception Established by Michigan Supreme Court in Odom v Wayne County Continues to Clearly Delineate Parameters of Liability for Law Enforcement Officers in Michigan

In a case brought to the Michigan Supreme Court by Carson J. Tucker in 2008, Odom v. Wayne County, a seminal (and essentially unanimous) decision and a lasting jurisprudential pillar of governmental tort liability law in Michigan, the Court interpreted the “subjective, good-faith” exception to intentional tort and gross-negligence claims found in Michigan’s Governmental Tort Liability Act (GTLA), MCL 691.1401, et seq.

Decades of uncertainty had surrounded the issues of the parameters of an individual law enforcement officer’s liability when he or she was performing the governmental function of enforcing the law. Odom clarified the scope of the so-called “intentional tort” exception to governmental immunity, the “gross negligence” exception in the GTLA, and the necessary burdens of proof to overcome the presumptive immunity granted to all individual governmental employees in Michigan.

As demonstrated by this March 3, 2020 Court of Appeals opinion, Mendoza v Robinson, et al, Odom’s protection of the discretionary actions and day-to-day decision making that law enforcement officers have to engage in is still protected by the well-established “subjective, good faith” exception.

This standard allows law enforcement officers to focus on the necessary tasks of serving and protecting the public. Establishing strong judicial precedent and clarifying the parameters of liability within which governmental employees must consider their day to day actions significantly reduced litigation and, more importantly, liability payouts by the government in the state of Michigan.

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