Attorneys Erin Rodenhouse and MaryRachel Dysarz obtained a significant outcome issued by the Michigan Supreme Court


Collins Einhorn attorneys Erin Rodenhouse and MaryRachel Dysarz recently obtained a significant outcome in In re Guardianship of Malloy, which the Michigan Supreme Court issued on May 28, 2024 (Case No. 165018, 165020).

In many ways, Malloy was a win for Collins Einhorn’s client, Auto-Owners Insurance Group. But it was also a win for Michiganders as a whole. In the Court’s words, Malloy addressed “the important questions of whether and when professional guardians may use employees to perform guardianship tasks on their behalf.” That issue affects “the most vulnerable groups in our society.” Thanks in part to Rodenhouse’s advocacy before the Michigan Supreme Court, those vulnerable individuals now enjoy greater protections.

The delegation issue at the heart of Malloy depended in part on the Estate and Protected Individuals Code (EPIC). In EPIC, the Legislature expressly prohibits guardians from delegating some powers. Yet EPIC is silent about a number of tasks. As a result, guardians—including the parties to Malloy—delegated powers widely. That practice led to concerns about those subject to a guardian’s care. As the Michigan Elder Justice Initiative, the Legal Services Association of Michigan, and the Michigan State Planning Body argued in amici filings, guardians cannot make informed judgments about what best serves their wards if they never meet their wards.

Malloy began when a professional guardian asked Auto-Owners to pay charges for tasks that the guardian had delegated.  Auto-Owners concluded that the guardian had violated EPIC and declined to pay for those charges. The guardian sued Auto-Owners.

The trial court was not persuaded that there was anything wrong with current delegation practices. Nor was the Court of Appeals—until the Michigan Supreme Court remanded the case to the Court of Appeals. Even then, the Court of Appeals took issue with only one kind of delegation: allowing guardians to send employees to attend hearings on guardianship modifications.

Rodenhouse filed an application on Auto-Owners’ behalf. The Michigan Supreme Court granted leave and, in May 2024, issued an opinion that significantly clarified Michigan law in this area.

The Court held that there are indeed additional limits on a guardian’s delegation powers. It held that a guardian cannot delegate their “final decision-making authority” where (i) EPIC expressly prohibits the delegation of that power or (ii) the task at issue “alerts or impairs an incapacitated individual’s rights, duties, liabilities, or legal relations,” as the Court wrote. Finding questions of fact about the whether the guardian in Malloy was seeking payment for tasks that he could actually delegate, the Court remanded the case for further fact-finding in the trial court.

By clarifying and limiting guardians’ ability to delegate their responsibilities, the Malloy court provided additional legal protections for “the most vulnerable groups in our society.” Collins Einhorn was honored to be part of that effort.

Access the Michigan Supreme Court opinion here. 

Have questions or looking for further information? Contact one of our attorneys.