This month’s case is one of our own – DuPuis v City of Highland Park (Wayne County Circuit Court Case No. 18-005616-CL, Murphy, J.). In DuPuis, John Clark and I represented the City of Highland Park in a whistleblower case filed by a controversial member of City’s Police Department. On October 30, 2019, Judge John A. Murphy granted summary disposition in favor of Highland Park. The case is now pending in the Michigan Court of Appeals, where it will be reviewed by a panel of three (3) judges sometime next year.
In April of 2018, Sgt. DuPuis was suspended by Chief of Police Chester Logan for his role in the release of a dangerous homicide suspect from police custody. DuPuis subsequently sued the City under Michigan’s Whistleblower Protection Act, on the ground that he was, allegedly, targeted due to his role in the January 14, 2018 arrest of Gregory Yopp, the adult son of Highland Park’s Mayor, Hubert Yopp. The City, on the other hand, argued there was no evidence to suggest that the Gregory Yopp incident played any role in the investigation, which was handled by Chief Logan – not Mayor Yopp. In making that argument, we relied in large part on Green v Smitherman, 2000 WL 210363 (ND Ala 2000), where the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama granted summary judgment to defendant-employer in a retaliation case with nearly identical facts.
Ultimately, the Trial Court agreed with the City and dismissed the case. In so doing, the Judge Murphy reasoned that Sgt. DuPuis’ case was far too speculative to pass muster under Michigan law. As the Court explained at page 8 of its Opinion, “[Dupuis] provides nothing by way evidence that show that the Department’s decision to terminate him for letting Gray walk free was in some manner influenced by his authorization of Gregory Yopp’s arrest and subsequent search. The evidence reflects that the two events are merely a coincidence in time, which . . . is not enough to show retaliation.”
Retaliation cases are notoriously tough to defend; however, they are winnable with the right focus and preparation. Stay tuned for a follow-up blog when the Court of Appeals issues its decision in 2020.
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