Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Solomon v. Shuell case brief

Solomon v. Shuell case brief summary
457 N.W.2d 669 (1990)

Plaintiff surviving wife appealed a judgment of the court of appeals (Michigan), which affirmed the trial court decision admitting police reports into evidence under Mich. R. Evid. 803(6) and found that instructing the jury on the rescue doctrine was harmless error in wife's negligence, assault and battery, and violation of her husband's constitution rights actions arising from defendant officers' shooting of her husband.

Plain-clothes officers shot wife's husband dead while in the process of arresting their son in the driveway of husband's home. Husband came out of his house with his gun not knowing that the officers were officers.

The trial court admitted four police reports into evidence and instructed the jury on the rescue doctrine.


  • On appeal, the court held that the reports lacked trustworthiness within the meaning of the Mich. R. Evid. 803(6) business records exception where they were made by officers with motivation to misrepresent. 
  • Because the reports were made under the circumstances of highly probable civil and criminal litigation and departmental discipline, they were not admissible. 
  • The reports were also not admissible under Mich. R. Evid. 803(8) as public records or records of matters observed and reported pursuant to a duty. 
  • Along with their untrustworthiness, they had multiple layers of hearsay within hearsay. 
  • The court found the rescue doctrine instruction to be prejudicial and inconsistent with substantial justice because the jury could not properly analyze wife's theory of the case.
The court advised that the court of appeals judgment affirming the trial court's findings should be reversed, and the case was remanded for a new trial.

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