Doutre v. Niec – Case Brief Summary
Summary of Doutre v. Niec, 2 Mich.App. 88, 138 N.W.2d 501 (Mich. Ct. App. 1965).
Doutre (P) sustained injuries to her head and face after receiving a bleach and color treatment without a pretreatment patch test at Niec’s (D) beauty shop. Doutre brought a personal injury lawsuit and Niec was not permitted to testify on the standard of care used in other beauty salons in the Flint, Michigan area.
Doutre was awarded $10,000 and Niec entered a motion for a new trial. The court granted a new trial limited to the issue of liability only. Doutre appealed on the grounds that the exclusion of Niec’s testimony on customary trade practice was correct and therefore grant of a new trial was improper. Niec appealed on the grounds that the new trial should not be limited to the question of liability and should include a redetermination of damages.
- In a negligence lawsuit, can a court order a retrial for redetermination of liability only but not damages?
Holding and Rule
- No. In a negligence lawsuit liability and damages are inseparable. A new trial for a redetermination of liability must include the issue of damages.
It was error to exclude the testimony on the standard of care observed by other beauty shops in the area and a new trial is required. The questions of liability and damages are so closely intertwined that they usually may not be separated. The jury that determines liability should also have the responsibility of awarding damages. If liability is clear however a new trial may be granted limited to the issue of damages.
Order for a new trial for a redetermination of both liability and damages.
See Hadley v. Baxendale for a contract law case brief in which the court held that, in determining liability and damages, evidence of customary trade practice can be used to determine what was reasonably foreseeable to the parties at the time of contracting.