Michael T. Berger
Michael T. Berger is an Associate with extensive litigation and appellate experience and is well versed in the challenges that municipalities and their employees face in civil litigation. He takes an aggressive approach in defending his clients. For example, he once filed a motion asking that a Court bar a plaintiff from claiming certain injuries that were not disclosed earlier in litigation. The Trial Court granted that motion, a ruling that was instrumental in settling the matter for a nominal amount, well below the expected cost of an appeal or trial.
Mr. Berger began practicing law in 2013 and tried several cases within his first year of practice. He began representing municipal entities and their employees in 2015. Since then, he has successfully obtained a no-cause verdict in his clients’ favor at trial, has obtained summary judgment or disposition in his clients’ favor on many occasions, and has successfully advocated on behalf of his clients in the appellate courts.
He has extensive experience defending municipalities and their employees in civil rights actions, particularly claims brought against law enforcement officers. His practice also involves defending municipalities in general personal injury matters, such as motor vehicle negligence, gross negligence, and trip and fall matters. Mr. Berger's practice also involves defending municipalities in employment actions.
- General Municipal Law
- Appellate Advocacy
- Constitutional Law and Civil Rights
- Insurance Defense
- Law Enforcement
- Motor Vehicle Negligence
- Trip and Fall
- Employment Law
- Thomas M. Cooley Law School, J.D., 2012
- Michigan State University, B.S., Psychology, with an additional major in Political Science, 2009
Admitted to Practice
- United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan
- United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan
- United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
- United States Court of Federal Claims
- The Supreme Court for the United States
- Served as an Attorney-Coach for Kalamazoo Central High School's Mock Trial Team, 2014-2015
- Rated as a Rising Star by Michigan Super Lawyers, 2018-2023
- Rated as a Top Lawyer in Litigation by Michigan Top Lawyers, 2016
- Considerations in Deposing a High-Ranking Official or Opposing the Deposition of a High-Ranking Official, State Bar of Michigan Litigation Journal, Summer 2018
Dawson v Irwin, et al, No. 15-13269 (E.D. Mich 2015)
An African-American teenager brought a § 1983 claim, asserting that Mr. Berger's clients, two Caucasian police officers, used unconstitutional deadly force when they shot at his escaping vehicle, hitting him. Mr. Berger and another lawyer tried the case together. Mr. Berger made the defendants' opening statement and examined most of the witnesses at trial. The plaintiff argued that deadly force should not have been used because he was unarmed. Mr. Berger and his co-counsel argued that the escaping vehicle had been used as a weapon against the officers, justifying deadly force. Mr. Berger's clients obtained a no-cause verdict in their favor.
Bauman v. Millisor, No. 21-1527, 2022 WL 35470 (6th Cir. Jan. 4, 2022)
- Berger handled an appeal on behalf of several law enforcement officers. In that case, the plaintiff flew from Florida with his children back to Metro-Detroit. Several persons reported that the plaintiff seemed visibly drunk, and Mr. Berger's clients responded to the incident. The plaintiff denied that he was drunk, but the officers saw that the plaintiff's eyes were glassy, that the plaintiff struggled to retrieve his identification, that the plaintiff smelled of alcohol, and the plaintiff refused a preliminary breath test. Mr. Berger argued, and successfully convinced the Sixth Circuit, that his clients had probable cause to arrest the plaintiff for disorderly conduct, despite his denials that he was drunk and despite the plaintiff pleading the charge down to double parking.
Gray v. AutoZoners, LLC, No. 22-1069, 2022 WL 16942609 (6th Cir. Nov. 15, 2022), cert. denied, 143 S. Ct. 2496 (2023)
- Berger represented an AutoZone store manager in an appeal in a discrimination case. The plaintiff alleged that the manager unlawfully denied him a warranty exchange because of his race. Mr. Berger successfully convinced the Appellate Court that the manager denied the exchange because the evidence presented to the manager indicated that the plaintiff had a problem with his car, not the battery he had exchanged several times. Thus, the Appellate Court found that the plaintiff was not discriminated against.
Green v. City of Southfield, Michigan, 925 F.3d 281 (6th Cir. 2019) ("Green I")
- Berger represented the City of Southfield and three of its police officers in an equal protections and denial of access to the courts § 1983 lawsuit. The plaintiff, an African-American woman, asserted that the defendants treated her disparately during a car accident investigation, in relation to the other driver, a Caucasian man, which led to the denial of her access to the courts to sue that person. The District Court granted summary judgment in Mr. Berger's clients’ favor and the Sixth Circuit affirmed that decision.
Green v. City of Southfield, Michigan, 759 F. App'x 410 (6th Cir. 2018) ("Green II")
- In a companion case to Green I, Mr. Berger represented a municipality, its City Administrator, its City Attorney, its Chief of Police, its Deputy Chief of Police, and several of its officers, again defending against the allegations that the City and its employees violated the plaintiffs' civil rights in regard to a car accident investigation. Mr. Berger convinced the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals that the claim was untimely and was properly dismissed by the trial court. The Sixth Circuit also agreed with him that the plaintiff's complaint did not plead facts that amounted to a constitutional violation.
Madbak v City of Farmington Hills, Court of Appeals Case No. 364734 (2023)
- Berger successfully defended the City of Farmington Hills in a trip and fall case. The plaintiff alleged that she walked on a street in a Farmington Hills subdivision and that she tripped and fell in a pothole. As a prerequisite to filing a lawsuit against the City, the Governmental Tort Liability Act required her to submit a notice of claim to the City within 120 days of her injury which: (1) specified the location of her fall, (2) specified the alleged defect with the highway, (3) specified her alleged injuries, and (4) identified any witnesses to the incident. MCL 691.1404. The plaintiff submitted a purported notice of claim to the City prior to filing suit. Mr. Berger, however, argued that the purported notice did not provide the City with the required information. In response, the plaintiff argued, that she had supplemented her notice within 121 days by sending an email to a third-party claims representative. Mr. Berger argued that the proposed supplement was not only untimely but also was served incorrectly and did not include the required information. The Trial Court agreed with Mr. Berger, as did the Michigan Court of Appeals.
Ruggiero v. Shiawassee Cnty. Sheriff's Off., No. 359748, 2022 WL 2288588 (Mich. Ct. App. June 23, 2022)
- Berger handled a FOIA action in the Michigan Court of Appeals. The plaintiff filed a FOIA with a sheriff's department seeking communications regarding an ongoing internal investigation. The sheriff's department denied the request, claiming they were exempt from disclosure. After the FOIA litigation began, the internal investigation closed, and the sheriff's department disclosed the communications. The Court of Appeals was tasked with deciding whether the sheriff's department properly claimed an exemption. Mr. Berger successfully argued that the communications, despite their later disclosure, were exempt at the time the FOIA request was made, under the law enforcement purposes exception to FOIA.
Shaw v. Ferndale, 6th Cir. Case No. 20-1643
- Berger represented a municipality and three police officers who responded to an altercation between an Uber driver and his patrons. The Uber driver was African-American, while the patrons were Caucasian. At the scene, the patrons showed the officers a video of the Uber driver approaching one of the patrons holding a phone and showed the Uber driver approaching the woman in a hostile manner, as well as moving his hand toward the phone. The officers reviewed that footage and arrested the Uber driver for assault and battery, but the Uber driver successfully defended the criminal charges against him. The Uber driver filed suit alleging that the officers falsely arrested him, maliciously prosecuted him, committed conspiracy to violate his civil rights, intentionally inflicted emotional distress against him, and were grossly negligent. Mr. Berger convinced the Trial Court and the Sixth Circuit that the officers acted appropriately by arresting the plaintiff and seeking charges against him.
Stallworth v. Champine, No. 16-CV-10696, 2018 WL 690997 (E.D. Mich. Feb. 2, 2018)
- Berger represented a police officer and a municipality against an excessive force claim. Mr. Berger's client responded to a request for assistance from another jurisdiction and when he arrived, he encountered the suspect in the suspect vehicle. He asked that the suspect exit the vehicle and grabbed the suspect's arm and handcuffed him. The suspect accused Mr. Berger's client of using excessive force while grabbing and handcuffing him. Mr. Berger successfully obtained a dismissal of his client by convincing the Court that the extraction did not amount to excessive force and that the suspect did not complain to Mr. Berger's client that the handcuffs were too tight.
Taylor v. Olympia Ent., Inc., Court of Appeals Case No. 346172 application for leave to appeal denied 504 Mich. 947, 931 N.W.2d 349 (2019)
- Berger represented Olympia Entertainment, Inc. in a trip and fall action. The plaintiff walked from a parking lot to a theater in Downtown Detroit and tripped and fell on an uneven slab of sidewalk. One slab was about 2 inches higher than the other. Mr. Berger moved for summary disposition in the Trial Court, but that Court denied the request. Mr. Berger, recognizing the Trial Court's error, immediately filed an application for leave to appeal to the Michigan Court of Appeals, along with a motion for immediate consideration and a motion for peremptory reversal. The Michigan Court of Appeals granted Mr. Berger's motion for peremptory reversal and ordered that the case be dismissed. Mr. Berger then successfully convinced the Michigan Supreme Court that the matter was not worthy of its review.
Thornsberry v. Detroit Tigers, Inc., No. 342322, 2019 WL 1644946 (Mich. Ct. App. Apr. 16, 2019) application for leave to appeal denied 505 Mich. 974
- Berger represented Detroit Tigers, Inc. in a premise liability case. The plaintiff asserted that she tripped and fell on a stair that had a rubber runner or expansion joint running down it. The Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of the case based on the open and obvious doctrine, despite the lower court judge making statements about his extrajudicial knowledge of the stairs in question, from his visits to Comerica Park. Mr. Berger also convinced the Michigan Supreme Court to deny the plaintiff's request for leave to appeal the matter from the Court of Appeals.
Webb v. Detroit Red Wings, Inc, Court of Appeals Case No. 341892
- Berger represented Detroit Red Wings, Inc. and Olympia Entertainment, Inc. in a negligence action. The plaintiff attended a Detroit Red Wings hockey game and after he exited the hockey arena, two men encountered him and attacked him. The plaintiff alleged that Detroit Red Wings, Inc. and Olympia Entertainment, Inc. had a duty to protect the plaintiff from those two men. On appeal, Mr. Berger filed a motion asking that the Court of Appeals summarily affirm summary disposition in his clients' favor. The Court of Appeals granted Mr. Berger's request, finding that his clients owed the plaintiff no duty at law to protect him from those attackers. More specifically, the Court agreed with Mr. Berger that the question it was asked to review was "so unsubstantial as to need no argument or formal submission."