HEALTH CALL OF DETROIT V ATRIUM HOME & HEALTH CAREAnnotate this Case
STATE OF MICHIGAN
COURT OF APPEALS
HEALTH CALL OF DETROIT, d/b/a JADELLS,
September 8, 2005
ATRIUM HOME & HEALTH CARE SERVICES,
INC.; KATRINA JOHNSON, LPN; DWIGHT
ROBINSON, LPN, and DAMITA BORNER,
Wayne Circuit Court
LC No. 01-135282
Official Reported Version
Before: Whitbeck, C.J., and Sawyer, Murphy, Neff, Jansen, Fitzgerald, and Markey, JJ.
SAWYER, J. (concurring in part and dissenting in part).
I concur with the result and reasoning contained in Judge Murphy's opinion, especially its
We conclude that a blanket rule limiting recovery to nominal damages as a
matter of law in all actions arising out of or related to the termination of at-will
contracts is not legally sound. There may exist factual scenarios in which there is
a tangible basis on which future damages may be assessed that is not overly
speculative despite the at-will nature of the underlying contract. [Ante at ___.]
But I write separately to express my view that the factual showing necessary to establish that
damages are tangible rather than speculative in an at-will contract case is a high burden to meet.
Quite frankly, I am skeptical whether this, or any other, plaintiff can meet that burden. It would,
I think, be an exceptional case in which the plaintiff will be able to survive summary disposition
and receive a jury verdict that does award more than nominal damages. But that said, I join with
the majority in concluding that it is inappropriate to preclude plaintiffs as a matter of law from
Therefore, to the extent that the trial court followed the lead of Environair, Inc v
Steelcase, Inc1 and granted summary disposition solely because this case involves an at-will
contract, I agree that the trial court erred in so doing. I join with the majority in overruling
Environair to the extent that it holds that, as a matter of law, damages in at-will contract cases
are always speculative and, therefore, only nominal damages may be recovered in every case.
I do not, however, join with the majority in its conclusion that plaintiff in the case at bar
has necessarily made a sufficient showing to survive summary disposition. I would merely
remand to the trial court to reconsider summary disposition, but this time without the view that
Environair creates an absolute rule barring more than nominal damages in such cases. The trial
court in this, and every other such case, must assess the merits of each individual case to
determine if the plaintiff in that case has made a sufficiently tangible showing of damages to
warrant allowing the jury to consider an award of more than nominal damages. But I would
allow the trial court to make the determination in the first instance.
/s/ David H. Sawyer
190 Mich App 289; 475 NW2d 366 (1991).