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158789 - David R. Sanders v Tumbleweed Saloon, Inc

David R. Sanders and Heather H. Sanders

 

Matthew Hanley

 

Plaintiffs-Appellees,

 

v

(Appeal from Ct of Appeals)

 

 

(Montmorency – Mack, M.)

 

Tumbleweed Saloon, Inc., and Painter Investments, Inc., doing business as Chauncey’s Pub,

Defendants-Appellants,

Scott Feuer

 

 

 

and

 

 

Shawn Spohn and Zachary Pierce,

Defendants.

 

Summary

Plaintiff David Sanders was injured after being physically attacked by defendants Shawn Spohn and Zachary Pierce, both of whom were intoxicated after being served alcohol at the two defendant bars, Tumbleweed Saloon and Chauncey’s Pub.  Plaintiff and his companion that evening consulted with an attorney, who sent a letter to one of the defendant bars, stating that he was “represent[ing]” the injured plaintiff and requesting that the bar preserve any security videos.  The dramshop act provides that a retail alcohol licensee may not “sell, furnish, or give alcoholic liquor to a person who is visibly intoxicated.”  MCL 436.1801(2).  The notice provision of the dramshop act, MCL 436.1801(4), states that a plaintiff must “give written notice to all defendants within 120 days after entering an attorney-client relationship for the purpose of pursuing a claim under this section.”  The trial court granted summary disposition to the defendant bars, holding that, despite the initial lawyer’s affidavit to the contrary, plaintiffs and that attorney had an attorney-client relationship at the time of the letter and, therefore, the later notice by plaintiffs’ current counsel was untimely.  The Court of Appeals reversed in a split unpublished opinion.  The majority held that there was no “meeting of the minds” in support of the finding of an attorney-client relationship and that a genuine question of fact existed regarding the existence of such a relationship.  The dissent opined that there was no outstanding question of fact and that the trial court did not clearly err in concluding that an attorney-client relationship existed when the lawyer sent the letter.  The Supreme Court has directed oral argument on defendant bars’ application for leave to appeal to address whether the Court of Appeals erred when it concluded that there was a genuine question of fact as to whether there was an attorney-client relationship between plaintiffs and the attorney who sent the initial letter on their behalf to one of the defendants. ​