In the published opinion Doe v Boyle, Docket No. 320102 (September 22, 2015), after a lengthy battle, the Court of Appeals awarded court-appointed guardian ad litem Thomas Woods costs and attorney's fees for his services on a personal injury suit as a guardian ad litem for the defendant minor child. The plaintiff, by his mother as next friend, had sued the minor child defendant Michael Hand, Hand's foster-care provider, the state of Michigan, DHS, and DHS of Wexford-Missaukee Counties. The procedural history of the case is complicated, but essentially, when Woods first requested costs and attorney's fees after the state of Michigan, DHS, and DHS of Wexford-Massaukee Counties were granted dismissal, the circuit court denied him any costs or attorney's fees and continued to do so in all subsequent hearings where he requested them. In Wood's second appeal, the subject of this blog, the Court of Appeals held that Woods, as a court-appointed guardian ad litem, was entitled to both costs and attorney's fees, citing Court Rules and statutes indicating a guardian ad litem should not be responsible for such costs. See MCL 600.2415; MCR 2.201(E)(1)(c) & (3)(a). The Court of Appeals also held that DHS is responsible for Wood's costs and fees, despite DHS no longer being a party to the action, because Hand (the minor defendant) was a ward of the state, and DHS and the MCI Superintendent were accountable for Hand's care. The Court of Appeals noted that this is a similar outcome to child-protective and delinquency proceedings, and that this is a personal injury suit does not change DHS's responsibility.
It is amazing that it took over five years from the first time Woods requested costs and attorney's fees for his work as a guardian ad litem and two separate appeals, not to mention various litigation in the circuit court, for Woods to be awarded costs and attorney's fees. However, the Court of Appeals decision makes sense and hopefully will provide other guardians ad litem the ability for easier recovery for their work.