CMDA Announces Newest Partner

Brian Goldstein UpdatedWe are pleased to announce that Brian Goldstein has been named a general partner at CMDA.

Mr. Goldstein joined CMDA in 2014 and works out of our Kansas City office. He focuses his practice on business law, municipal law, insurance defense, and litigation. He represents clients in civil litigation matters in both state and federal courts throughout Kansas and Missouri, as well as serving as coverage counsel for numerous insurance companies.

Mr. Goldstein has been involved in representing clients in a wide spectrum of cases, from routine personal injury cases to complex damage cases in the fields of professional malpractice, products liability, employment discrimination, defective construction, and wrongful death. He received a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Kansas School Of Law and a Bachelor’s degree from University of Kansas.

Chris Schultz, managing partner of the Firm, explains, “Brian has displayed exceptional leadership qualities since joining CMDA. He tirelessly promotes the best interests of the Firm and is dedicated to obtaining the best possible outcome for every client.”

Brian Goldstein may be reached at (816) 842-1880 or bgoldstein@cmda-law.com.

2015 Year in Review: Monumental Milestone Recognized, Skilled Attorneys Hired, and Remarkable Anniversaries Celebrated

Chris SchultzAs a new year is upon us, we reflect back on 2015 and the successful year we had at CMDA. We recognized a monumental milestone, hired several attorneys, and celebrated some remarkable anniversaries.

CMDA was honored to have celebrated our 50th Anniversary in 2015. This monumental anniversary would not have been possible without Owen Cummings, the founder of the Firm.  Mr. Cummings had a vision of developing a Firm whose strength rests in the service we provide our clients.  We thank Mr. Cummings for the dedication and effort he has put into growing CMDA over the past 50 years.

As a way to give back to the community as we celebrated our 50th anniversary, every month throughout 2015 the Firm, employees, and clients donated 50 (or more) items to local charities, including the 17th District Veteran’s Court, Children’s Hospital of Michigan, Mittens for Detroit, Dearborn Animal Shelter, PBJ Outreach Center, Alternatives for Girls, St. Dominic Outreach Center, and The Guidance Center.

Attorneys Suzanne Bartos, Matthew Heron, David Katz, and Jennifer Richards joined our Firm in 2015.

Suzanne Bartos is an attorney in our Livonia office where she focuses her practice on labor and employment law, insurance defense, municipal law, education law, and litigation.  She successfully defends civil rights, wrongful discharge, and discrimination claims in state and federal courts, as well as the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Michigan Employment Security Commission.  She also achieves outstanding results for clients in premise liability, breach of contract, collections, warranty disputes, and consumer protection matters.  Further, she is a trusted legal advisor to school districts and community colleges on a variety of educational and governance issues.  Ms. Bartos was previously with our Firm from 1985 to 2000, and we are elated to have her back at CMDA.  Ms. Bartos may be reached at (734) 261-2400 or sbartos@cmda-law.com.

Matthew Heron is an attorney in our Livonia office where he focuses his practice on commercial litigation and real estate, including community association, condominium law, real estate litigation, zoning and land use.  He also has extensive experience in a variety of litigation matters, including insurance coverage, non-compete agreements, automotive supplier disputes, and breach of contract.  He routinely appears in both federal and state courts throughout Michigan and has argued before the Michigan Court of Appeals and the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.  Mr. Heron may be reached at (734) 261-2400 or mheron@cmda-law.com.

David Katz is an attorney in our Kansas City office where he focuses his practice on insurance defense, municipal law, business litigation, and civil litigation.  He prepares and files motions with all levels of Missouri state and federal courts and performs research for unique areas of law handled by our Kansas City office.  While attending John Marshall Law School, he worked as a law clerk for an insurance subrogation firm in Chicago.  Upon graduation, he moved back to Missouri, and we are delighted to have him at CMDA.  Mr. Katz may be reached at (816) 842-1880 or dkatz@cmda-law.com.

Jennifer Richards is an attorney in our Livonia office where she focuses her practice on appellate law, law enforcement defense and litigation, municipal law, and insurance defense.  She writes briefs for submission to all levels of state and federal courts, argues cases in all levels of state and federal courts of appeals, and performs research for all areas of law handled by the Firm.  She was previously a law clerk at the Firm and when she recently passed the bar exam to become an attorney, we were pleased she accepted the Firm’s offer to continue her legal career at CMDA.  Ms. Richards may be reached at (734) 261-2400 or jrichards@cmda-law.com.

These attorneys are all wonderful assets to the Firm, and I am sure you will hear much more about them in future newsletters.

We are pleased to announce the expansion of the Firm’s Estate Planning and Elder Law practice group. Jim Schuster, a top Certified Elder Law attorney in Michigan, has joined our Firm as an Of Counsel attorney. He has been licensed to practice law since 1978 and practices entirely in the area of Elder Law. Mr. Schuster helps elders stay independent and in control and helps children of aging parents with the advice and legal documents they need to carry out their parents’ wishes and take care of their needs. Additionally, he assists clients with the complex Nursing Home Medicaid planning process.  Mr. Schuster is a welcomed addition to our Firm’s Estate Planning and Elder Law practice group. He may be reached at (734) 261-2400 or jschuster@cmda-law.com.

Several employees celebrated impressive anniversaries with the Firm in 2015. Owen Cummings, Founder of the Firm, celebrated his 50th anniversary; Tim Young, an equity partner of the Firm, Tom Laginess, an attorney in our Livonia office, and Janet Raffaelli, the Firm’s IT Specialist, all celebrated their 30th anniversary; Tim Ferrand, a partner in our Clinton Township office, Marie Jones, a legal assistant in our Livonia office, Kathy Ueberroth, a paralegal in our Livonia office, and Jim Glover, the Firm’s Courier, all celebrated their 25th anniversary; Patrick Sturdy and Jim Acho, both partners in our Livonia office, and Robin Thomas, the Firm’s Accounting Administrator, all celebrated their 15th anniversary; and Anita Zischerk and Eileen Stoner, both legal assistants in our Livonia office, celebrated their 10th anniversary.  We are fortunate to have such an excellent group of people working at the Firm and thank them all for their dedication.

We are grateful and appreciative for the trust our clients have placed in our Firm since 1965.  Thank you for your support in helping CMDA continue to be a premier law firm with office locations throughout Michigan, Kansas and California.  Have a great 2016.

Christopher G. Schultz is the managing partner of the Firm and works out of our Livonia office.  He concentrates his practice on business law, real estate law, and estate planning.  He may be reached at (734) 261-2400 or cschultz@cmda-law.com.

Attorney Joins Livonia Office

Jennifer RichardsWe are pleased to announce that Jennifer A. Richards has joined our Firm as an attorney in our Livonia office.

She focuses her practice on municipal law, insurance defense, law enforcement defense, and litigation and appeals. Ms. Richards writes briefs for submission to all levels of state and federal courts, arguing cases in all levels of state and federal courts of appeals, and performing research for all areas of law handled by the Firm.

Prior to joining CMDA, Ms. Richards served as a research extern at the Michigan Court of Appeals drafting research reports and proposed opinions for Michigan Court of Appeals’ judges in criminal cases.  Additionally, she worked as a student intern in the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law Veterans Clinic assisting military veterans with their benefit requests before the Veterans Administration.

Ms. Richards may be reached at (734) 261-2400 or jrichards@cmda-law.com.

Insureds and Insurers Must Carefully Read their Insurance Policies

In two seminal opinions, Wilkie v Auto-Owners Ins. Co. and Rory v Continental Ins. Co., the Michigan Supreme Court emphatically confirmed that insurance contracts are to be enforced by the courts “as written.”  The parties to an insurance contract remain free to waive or modify the terms of the contract by mutual consent, but one party cannot demand enforcement of an insurance contract, contrary to the mutually agreed terms, based upon that party’s unilateral belief that the contract has a meaning different than what the mutually agreed terms actually provide.  In particular, the insured is bound by the agreed terms, despite the reality that most insureds must accept their insurance contracts as offered by an insurer, with no genuine opportunity to negotiate the coverage terms.

Yet under these mandates, both the insured and the insurer must be careful to read the insurance contract between them.  An insurer is obligated to know the terms of their insurance policy and will be bound to those terms, even if they fail to read them.  On the other hand, in the absence of fraud by the insured, the insurer is equally bound to the terms of the insurance policy; the insurer must specifically describe those exclusions and conditions in the policy in unambiguous terms.  Ambiguous terms in an insurance policy (i.e., terms that are capable of conflicting interpretations based upon the words used) may be interpreted against the insurer, if there is no demonstrable, external evidence that the insured and insurer had mutually agreed to one particular meaning for the ambiguous term.

Insurance sales and claims representatives need to be particularly aware of the actual language of the insurance policies with which they deal because the policy terms may prove overly generalized or even ambiguous in specific factual situations.  This is particularly true because policy terms are often drafted by the Insurance Services Office (an association of insurers that develops standard policy forms) rather than an individual insurer.  Insurers, as much as their insured, are at risk of finding their expectations regarding the meaning of terms of an insurance policy rejected by the courts if these expectations are not based upon a careful reading of the language of the insurance contract.


Douglas Curlew, an attorney in our Livonia office, concentrates his practice on appeals, premises liability and insurance law.  He can be reached at (734) 261-2400 or dcurlew@cmda-law.com.

Insurance Companies May Now Avail Themselves of the Traditional Legal and Equitable Remedies when Faced with Fraud

The Michigan Supreme Court has discarded the 36-year-old doctrine that once prevented insurance companies from denying claims based on fraudulent statements made in an insured’s application.  Previously, the law stated that an insurer could not deny liability in the event of fraud found on an insured’s application if the fraud would have been “easily ascertainable” by the insurer.  Now, fraud, if proven, can serve as a complete bar to recovery.  Insurance companies no longer have the duty to investigate and may rely solely on the insurance application.

In the case of Titan Insurance Company v Hyten, Hyten’s driver’s license had been suspended.  Her mother had been informed that insurance could not be provided until Hyten’s license was reinstated.  So, with the help of the insurance agent, Hyten’s mother completed a back-dated insurance application, attesting there were no unlicensed drivers in the household.  Previously, because an insurer could have easily verified the status of Hyten’s driver’s license, this fraud would not serve has a bar to recovery.  Now, insurance companies may deny such claims.

To prove fraud now, insurance providers need only prove the following: the customer made a 1) material (mis)representation; 2) the representation was false; 3) the customer knew the representation was false when she made it; 4) the customer made the misrepresentation with the intent the insurance company would rely on it; and 5) the insurance company suffered damages as a result.

While the insurance company enjoys the lower burden of proving “actual reliance,” the insured must meet the higher burden of proving that they “reasonably relied” on the insurance agent’s representations, if they wish to bind the insurance company under agency law. This is significant, and the Court does not explain why insurance companies face only a subjective standard, while the insured that rely on what their agents say face a tougher, objective standard.

Linda Davis Friedland is an attorney in our Livonia office where she concentrate her practice on Commercial Litigation, Employment and Labor Law, Corporate and Business Law, Estate Planning, Utilities Law and Municipal Law. She can be reached at (734) 261-2400 or lfriedland@cmda-law.com.