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Reynolds v Mueller Brass Company 12.55

Section 29(1)(b)

MISCONDUCT, Negligence, Serious consequences, Single instance

CITE AS: Reynolds v Mueller Brass Company, No. 81349 (Mich App January 30, 1986).

Appeal pending: No

Claimant: Kenneth Reynolds

Employer: Mueller Brass Company

Docket No: B82 06371 83760

COURT OF APPEALS HOLDING: Serious actual and potential harmful results of a claimant error can support a finding of misconduct based on a single act of negligence.

FACTS: Claimant worked in Mueller's Port Huron water treatment department. His duties included controlling the flow of hydrochloric acid into a tank and shutting the valve at the end of the day. On 2-2-82 he forgot to shut the valve. As a result 1000 to 2000 gallons of acid overflowed and started to enter the city sewage system. One employee was endangered by having to enter into an area where there were fumes. The acid destroyed pumps and gratings and will continue to affect plant equipment. Claimant was discharged because of this single incident.

DECISION: Claimant is disqualified for misconduct under Section 29(1)(b).

RATIONALE: The court reviewed Michigan case law and noted that in Wickey v ESC, 369 Mich 487 (1963) the Supreme Court quoted with approval the following from the Referee decision in Wickey: "'In determining whether or not an individual has committed an act of misconduct for which he is discharged we must take into consideration all of the facts and particularly the degree of responsibility the claimant owes to the employer and what his infraction of the rules means as far as hardship or trouble to the employer. 369 Mich 502, 503.'"

The court went on to observe, "It is clear from these cases that actual 'intent' to harm an employer is not required, and that under special circumstances, ordinary negligence can be so egregious that it constitutes disqualifying misconduct. Reynolds was well aware of the hazards to property and life that his handling of hydrochloric acid entailed. We agree with the MESC determination that the extremely harmful, and potentially disastrous, result of his negligence could well elevate Reynolds' forgetfulness to the level of statutory misconduct."


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