Variegated caseload: Attorney's work includes police misconduct cases

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By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Attorney Mark Peyser has handled all kinds of police misconduct cases, including alleged excessive force, fatal shootings, and in-custody deaths.  So the recent issues in Ferguson – and other places  – are of particular interest.

“What I’ve learned is that police officers are under a lot of pressure while on duty and have to make split second decisions under many difficult and stressful circumstances, especially when their safety – or that of someone else – is at risk,” says Peyser, an attorney with Howard & Howard Attorneys in Royal Oak.

“It’s always easy in hindsight to review alleged police misconduct but when faced with a hostile and volatile situation involving the potential for serious injury or death, police officers must make the best decision they can within a split second especially when another person has a weapon.”

Peyser adds that although police are under severe scrutiny and held to the highest of standards, when situations arise involving injury or death from a police officer’s actions or inaction, the public should give all deference to not forming an opinion until a complete and thorough investigation can be completed.

“Currently, we’re too quick to judge police officers, as a society,” he says.

In addition to police misconduct, Peyser concentrates his practice in business law, commercial litigation, complex insurance coverage, intellectual property, negligence, personal injury, products liability and toxic torts.

“Underlying business issues can involve a number of different types of industries and technologies and a variety of issues and sub issues,” he notes. “I have the opportunity to work with very intelligent and sophisticated people and I’m exposed to some cutting edge developments in the business community.”

In the mid ’80s through ’90s, Peyser handled several major insurance coverage cases involving claims for substantial damages to either the environment and/or personal injury claims arising out of industrial manufacturing operations.

One such case involved Gelman Sciences, a manufacturer of microporous membrane filters and other high tech medical products, and it was alleged that thru its manufacturing operations Gelman contaminated the groundwater in and around Scio Township, just outside of Ann Arbor. Gelman brought suit against its commercial general liability insurer seeking the reimbursement of defense costs and indemnity for the multi-million dollar cleanup required by the EPA and the Michigan DNR.

Lead counsel for the insurer, Peyser was successful in getting the case dismissed in the trial court as to when an insurance policy is triggered for purposes of coverage for environmental claims. He also prevailed in the Michigan Court of Appeals, and handled the appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court on a matter of first impression.

“While the court ruled in favor of a position that was evolving as the majority rule and went against my client, the experience was phenomenal as this was the first case I handled in our state supreme court,” he says.

A challenging product liability case involved a pickup truck propelled over very rough terrain after a high-speed rear end collision and eventually catching fire after coming to a stop.  Despite the efforts of those at the scene, a 4-year-old girl perished in the blaze. 

Peyser represented the fuel tank manufacturer, and the defense centered around the terrain, and what portion of it may have punctured the tank resulting in a fuel leak and fire.

“There were a lot of interesting engineering issues involved,” he explains.  “We were able to prepare a very formidable defense that resulted in a nominal settlement that was very favorable to my client.”

As a case evaluator for the Macomb and Wayne County Mediation Tribunals and a court approved facilitator for the 3rd, 6th and 16th Circuit Courts, Peyser enjoys the opportunity and challenge to bring adverse parties together towards a resolution.

“Mediation presents the opportunity to resolve the matter for a figure that both parties can accept without the risk of a costly trial and the uncertainty of a verdict,” he notes. “Not every case can be resolved through mediation but the great majority of cases settle rather than being tried. Mediation is the opportunity for open and frank discussions and the chance to save a lot of money rather than litigating to a verdict. In some cases the mediation process can repair or rehabilitate an otherwise broken or strained relationship.”

Named a Michigan Super Lawyer, among the Top 100 lawyers in Michigan and Top 50 business lawyers, and with an AV® Peer Review Rating from Martindale-Hubbell, Peyser came to his law career in a roundabout fashion.

After earning his undergrad degree in Public Affairs Management from Michigan State University, he worked in the automotive supply industry for several years, until the industry took a nosedive in the late ’70s, with major layoffs at the “Big 3” in the Detroit area.  Shortly after leaving this field, Peyser met former Lt. Governor T. John Lesinski, first chief judge for the Michigan Court of Appeals, whose consulting company, Administrative Court Management (ACM), was hired by the state to increase the efficiency of the Recorders Court and the Workers Compensation Bureau (WCB) in Detroit.  Lesinski offered Peyser the opportunity to work with ACM, and he became the central assignment clerk for the WCB in Detroit.

This exposure to the judicial system sparked Peyser’s interest in pursuing a degree at Detroit College of Law – now Michigan State University College of Law, where in 2013 Peyser joined colleagues in providing career advice to students.

“The DCL academic program was first class and the professors challenged you to be the best you could be,” he says.  “It was a very collegial environment – challenging but user friendly.  It prepared me very well to be a practitioner.”

A native of Grosse Pointe Shores, Peyser now lives in Grosse Pointe Woods with Kady, his wife of 32 years, and is a big supporter of the greater Detroit community.

“I love the people – they are considerate, caring and genuine,” he says. “They enjoy our community and want to see everyone do well. I commend all of the public officials for putting the best interests of Detroit at the forefront as it’s definitely on its way back and will be a strong and thriving city in the very near future.”

With two sons, Hank and Matt, Peyser has been very involved in the Grosse Pointe Hockey Association – coaching for 14 years, and serving on the board for 11 years, including two years as president. He also enjoys boating, golf, skiing, and travel.

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