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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Date: February 5, 2021 Contact: Shruti Lakshmanan, Transition Manager
[email protected], 734-697-3933
Coalition of Prosecuting Attorneys File Brief Urging Michigan Supreme Court to Consider Major Consumer Protection Case
Washtenaw Prosecutor Eli Savit Files Brief on Behalf of Six Elected Prosecuting Attorneys
Ann Arbor, MI –On Friday, a group of six elected Prosecuting Attorneys filed a brief in the Michigan Supreme Court urging the Court to hear a case with potentially major implications for Michigan’s consumer protection law.
The brief was filed Friday afternoon by Washtenaw County Prosecutor Eli Savit. Savit was joined on the brief by Robert Steinhoff (Alger County Prosecutor), Robert Stratton (Chippewa County), David Leyton (Genesee County), Carol Siemon (Ingham County), and Matt Wiese (Marquette County).
The brief urged the Court to hear the case Cyr v. Ford Motor Company, which involves the scope of Michigan’s Consumer Protection Act. As written, the Act prohibits a broad swath of conduct. Among other things, it bars businesses from grossly overcharging consumers, taking advantage of a consumer’s disability, misrepresenting the quality of goods, or engaging in consumer coercion.
In addition to allowing for consumer lawsuits, the Act allows local prosecutors—as well as the Attorney General—to investigate and litigate consumer abuse.
The prosecutors’ brief notes that former Supreme Court Chief Justice Marilyn Kelly called Act the “crown jewel” of efforts “to expand consumers’ rights and remedies.” The Act’s scope, however, was narrowed through judicial decisions in 1999 and 2007. Most recently—in what the brief calls an “atextual” interpretation of the Act—the Court suggested that businesses are exempt from the Act if they are otherwise “regulated” by the state or federal government.
These decisions have rendered much of the Act a nullity. And, the brief argues, they have “precluded prosecuting attorneys from enforcing the Act.”
The brief urges the Court to hear the Cyr case. In Cyr, the Court of Appeals—applying a narrow reading of the Consumer Protection Act—ruled that plaintiffs could not move forward with a lawsuit under the Act alleging misrepresentations regarding Ford’s transmission systems.
Citing several “conflicting” court decisions regarding the Act, the prosecutors’ brief urges the Court to “clarify, once and for all, the scope of Michigan’s Consumer Protection Act.”
“The Michigan Consumer Protection Act gives prosecutors the authority to stand up to consumer abuse,” Savit said. “Unfortunately, a series of decisions by our Supreme Court has made it nearly impossible for prosecutors to exercise that authority.”
“The result is that many businesses feel free to engage in consumer abuse. That is unacceptable. It is our hope that the Supreme Court will take this opportunity to clarify the scope of the Act—and allow prosecutors to protect consumers in their communities.”
The prosecutors’ brief is available at https://www.washtenaw.org/DocumentCenter/View/19529/Cyr-Amicus.
In addition to his elected counterparts, Savit was joined on the brief by Washtenaw County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Victoria Burton-Harris, Appellate Division head Christina Hines, and University of Michigan Law School interns Adam Abdel-Mageed, Briaunna Buckner, Courtney Liss, and Dillon Roseen.