Top Lawyers 2008

Michael H. DettmerRebuilder of Lives

Michael H. Dettmer: Of Counsel to Olson, Bzdok, & Howard, P.C., Traverse City
The Brief: Wayne State University’s Law School, J.D., 1971; United States Attorney and chief federal prosecutor for the Western District of Michigan, 1994-2001; 59th President, State Bar of Michigan
Practice Areas: Civil and Commercial Litigation, Environmental, Personal and Product Injury.

The accomplishments from your tenure as U.S. Attorney include major initiatives in community crime prevention in Western Michigan. Your office also came up with a creative way to deal with health care fraud.

We would ask the court as part of its sentence, to order convicted health care providers to take out full-page ads in their local paper that read: I committed Health Care Fraud. If anything reduced health care fraud, at least for a moment, in the Western District, that was it.

Personal injury lawsuits have a pretty bad rap, care to comment?

It’s undeserved; the climate in Michigan is horrible right now. The court and the legislature have so instilled tort reform in the state that people have lost their access to our courts and even so, their insurance premiums continue to rise. The system has lost its fairness and balance.

Tell me about a personal injury lawsuit that helped put a life back together.

My client had received a quadriplegic injury as a young Marine. Because of his disability, he had an elevator lift installed in his home. He had used it only a few times when it failed, sending him to the lower level and injuring him at a higher level of his spine. The defendants knew of the potential defect in the lift’s gearbox but did nothing to warn users. When the matter was resolved my client moved to Mexico and bought a resort catering to people with special needs/accessibility.