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Doutre v. Niec

    Brief Fact Summary. The Plaintiff, Doutre (Plaintiff), was injured in the Defendants’, Pauline Niec, d/b/a Pauline’s Beauty Shop, and Floyd Niec (Defendants) beauty salon and sued for damages. The trial court disallowed Defendants’ evidence regarding industry standard of care and the jury found for the Plaintiff. A re-trial was ordered, limited to the question of liability only. The Defendants appealed.
    Synopsis of Rule of Law. In cases where liability is clear, the damages issues alone may be submitted for re-trial.

    Facts. Defendants operated a beauty shop in Flint, Michigan. The Plaintiff suffered head and facial injuries when Defendants’ bleached the Plaintiff’s hair without first giving her a patch test. As a result, Plaintiff sued. At trial, the Defendants were not allowed to testify as to the customary standard of care in the beauty shops in that area which offered the hair treatment. The jury awarded Plaintiff $10,000 and Defendants filed a motion for a new trial. A new trial was ordered, however, it was limited to the question of liability.

    Issue. Whether the trial court erred in excluding the evidence of the industry standard of care and whether the new trial should have been limited to the question of liability.

    Held. The trial court’s order for a new trial shall be extended to all of the issues. The trial court should have allowed Defendants’ testimony as to the industry standard of care. The new trial should be extended to both issues of liability and damages.

    Discussion. Defendants’ witnesses should have been allowed to testify because no one was held to a higher standard of care than the average in the industry. The court noted that the Defendants had been in the business for a long time and had many years of experience. The questions of liability and damages are usually closely intertwined and only in cases where liability is clear may the damages question be solely submitted for a retrial. The Michigan Court of Appeals noted that since the Defendants’ testimony was not allowed, the liability issue was not clearly reached and therefore, the re-trial should include liability and damages issue


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