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Fisher v. Lowe -- Michigan Court of Appeals

Guest poem submitted by Mark Penney:
(Poem #1725) Fisher v. Lowe
 A wayward Chevy struck a tree
 Whose owner sued defendants three.
 He sued car's owner, driver, too,
 And insurer for what was due
 For his oak tree that now may bear
 A lasting need for tender care.
 The Oakland County Circuit Court,
 John N. O'Brian, J., set forth
 The judgment that defendants sought,
 And quickly an appeal was brought.
 Court of Appeals, J.  H. Gillis, J.,
 Gave thought and then had this to say:
 1) There is no liability,
 Since No-Fault grants immunity,
 2) No jurisdiction can be found
 Where process service is unsound;
 And thus the judgment, as it's termed
 Is due to be, and is

 [1] AUTOMOBILES k251.13
 Defendant's Chevy struck a tree,
 There was no liability.
 The No-Fault Act comes into play,
 As owner and the driver say.
 Barred by the act's immunity,
 No suit in tort will aid the tree.
 Although the oak's in disarray,
 No court can make defendants pay.

 [2] PROCESS k4
 No jurisdiction could be found,
 Where process service is unsound.
 In personam jurisdiction
 Was not even legal fiction
 Where plaintiff failed to well comply
 With rules of court that did apply.

   * * *

 J. H. GILLIS, Judge.
 We thought that we would never see
 A suit to compensate a tree.
 A suit whose claim in tort is prest,
 Upon a mangled tree's behest;
 A tree whose battered trunk was prest
 Against a Chevy's crumpled crest;
 A tree that faces each new day
 With bark and limb in disarray;
 A tree that may forever bear
 A lasting need for tender care.
 Flora lovers though we three,
 We must affirm the court's decree.

-- Michigan Court of Appeals
 333 N.W. 2d 67 (Mich. App. 1983) (footnotes (in prose) omitted).

 Yes, this is an honest-to-goodness Michigan appellate court decision.  It's
still valid (though uninteresting) law, too.

 It's not the only time a judge has been inspired by a funny or silly or (in
this case) wildly frivolous lawsuit to launch into verse.  After a few
years, the starchy style you're pretty much forced to accept as a jurist
really begins to drag on some people, I guess.  But this one's a rarity, for
the following reasons:  (1) Usually, any poetry is written by the dissent,
with the majority opinion written in boring prose.  (2) For some reason,
this time the verse was infectious:  Thanks to Gillis's opinion (offered
unanimously by the three-judge panel), the author of the syllabus (the first
bit) and the headnotes (the little blurb summary bits with the numbers) were
also inspired to rhyme.  Lastly, (3) it's one of the two examples I know of
where not only is the opinion in verse, it is also a direct parody of a
specific poem.  (There's also "In Re Love," 61 B.R. 558 (Bankr. S. D. Fla.
1986),  which is a very good parody of The Raven, but that doesn't really
count since it's not real law.  The opinion is the judge denying his own sua
sponte motion-in English instead of legalese, that means it's a pointless
activity for the sole purpose of producing an opinion with no possible legal

 Ah, poetic justice.


55 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Amit Chakrabarti said...

Brilliant stuff! Is this archived at I couldn't
find it there.


Penney Mark said...

It's not in FindLaw, because unfortunately their archives of Michigan
law don't go back far enough. It is, however, in Westlaw and Lexis. If
you have access to a law library, you can also find it in the books:
Northwest Reporter, Second Series, vol. 333, p. 67.


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