Fraser Trebilcock Shareholder Ryan Kauffman Participates in Arguments in Michigan Supreme Court

On Thursday, October 5, Fraser Trebilcock Shareholder Ryan Kauffman participated in arguments in the Michigan Supreme Court on cases brought against higher education universities related to the COVID-19 issue.

You can view the entirety of the argument by going to the Michigan Supreme Court’s YouTube page, or by clicking here (Mr. Kauffman’s argument starts at 43:40).

Fraser Trebilcock attorney Ryan Kauffman arguing in front of the Michigan Supreme Court.

Mr. Kauffman was also quoted in The Detroit News, which you can view here.

Ryan K. Kauffman is a Shareholder at Fraser Trebilcock with more than a decade of experience handling complex litigation matters. You can contact him at or 517.377.0881.

Five Stories That Matter in Michigan This Week – September 22, 2023

  1. Ten Michigan Colleges Will Accept Any State High School Graduate with GPA of 3.0 or Higher

A coalition of 10 public colleges announced this week they will admit any in-state student with at least a 3.0 GPA for admission next fall. The colleges, including Central Michigan University and Eastern Michigan University, also formed the Michigan Assured Admission Pact.

Why it Matters: The Michigan economy requires a well-educated workforce, including high school graduates who are motivated to attend college. According to the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, the number of high school graduates in Michigan has been declining since 2008.


  1. Michigan Supreme Court Modifies Open and Obvious Legal Doctrine

Recently, the Michigan Supreme Court significantly modified a decades old legal doctrine that will have wide reaching impacts on property owners and lessees. In its decision in a pair of consolidated cases (Kandil-Elsayed v F & E Oil, Inc and Pinsky v Kroger Co of Mich), the state’s high court effectively abrogated a legal doctrine known as “open and obvious.”

Why it Matters: Now, in light of the Kandil-Elsayed and Pinsky decisions, the nature of an open and obvious condition is evaluated as an element of comparative fault that may reduce a plaintiff’s recovery but will not act as complete bar to recover. Moreover, the issue of comparative fault is a question of fact (that is a determination to be made by the jury). Learn more.


  1. Attorney Michael H. Perry Honored as “Lawyer of the Year” in Environmental Law in Lansing

Fraser Trebilcock attorney Michael H. Perry has been named the Best Lawyers in America© 2024 Environmental Law “Lawyer of the Year” in Lansing. This is a high distinction, as only one attorney in each practice area in each community is identified as “Lawyer of the Year.”

Why it Matters: “I am honored to be recognized by Best Lawyers© as a 2024 ‘Lawyer of the Year’ for Environmental Law in Lansing,” said Mike Perry. Because lawyers are not required or allowed to pay a fee to be listed, inclusion in Best Lawyers© is considered a singular honor. Only five percent of attorneys in Michigan are awarded the honor. Read more about Mike.


  1. CRA Publishes August 2023 Data; Average Price Decreases

Per data released by the Cannabis Regulatory Agency, the average retail price for adult-use sales of an ounce of cannabis is $94.16, a decrease from $98.65 in July. This is still a large decrease from August 2022, where the average price was $116.84.

Why it Matters: While the prices of cannabis and cannabis-related products continue to decrease and make consumers happy, growers on the other hand are seeing profits decrease resulting in them seeking ways to halt new licenses to be granted in an effort to steady prices. Contact our cannabis law attorneys if you have any questions.


  1. Business Education Series – Practical A.I. Business Solutions

Explore the transformative potential of Artificial Intelligence in the business landscape during our Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce Business Education Series.

Why it Matters: From understanding the capabilities of AI models like ChatGPT to creating customized workflows using API integrations and automation tools, discover how AI can drive innovation and efficiency across industries. Learn more.

Related Practice Groups and Professionals

Higher Education | Ryan Kauffman
Insurance Law | Ryan Kauffman
Environmental Law | Mike Perry
Cannabis Law | Sean Gallagher

Third Circuit Court of Appeals Rules that University can be Held Liable Under Title IX for On-Campus Murder by Nonstudent Guest

Following the on-campus murder of a student by her non-student boyfriend at Millersville University in 2015, the victim’s parents filed a Title IX claim against the university. The claim was rejected in a lower court, but, in a significant and consequential decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit reversed and held that the school could be held liable for the actions taken by a non-student guest on its campus.

This case serves as an important reminder for colleges and universities to pay close attention to their obligations under Title IX, and revisit and revise their policies as appropriate.

Case Background

The student-victim, Karlie Hall, was murdered in her dorm room by her boyfriend Gregorio Orrostieta.

Orrostieta was not a student, but he was a frequent visitor to the campus. In 2014, Hall was injured by Orrostieta in a domestic violence incident in her dorm room. Police responded, and Orrostieta was removed from campus, but no incident report was completed at the time. A resident advisor created an incident report, but the university’s administration failed to forward it to the school’s Title IX coordinator as required by school policy.

These and other facts were used to argue that the school acted with deliberate indifference to known harassment of a student.

The Court’s Analysis

Millersville University argued that it could not be held liable for the actions of a non-student guest on campus because it lacked notice that deliberate indifference to harassment, if perpetrated by a non-student guest, could result in Title IX liability.

In rejecting this argument, the Third Circuit cited the 1999 U.S. Supreme Court case, Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education. According to the Third Circuit:

“The Supreme Court made clear in Davis that a funding recipient may be liable for acts of sexual harassment by individuals other than students. Though Davis concerned only deliberate indifference to known student-on-student harassment, the Court’s holding was not based upon the classification of the harasser as a student, guest, or other type of third party … Instead, the Court’s focus was on whether the funding recipient had control over the harasser and the context of the harassment since the funding recipient can only ‘subject’ students to discrimination under Title IX if it has control over the harasser and remains deliberately indifferent to the harasser’s actions.”

The Third Circuit also stated the university’s Title IX policies in place at the time the incident occurred “contemplated Title IX liability could result from the actions of third parties such as ‘visitors’ like Orrostieta.”

While this decision was made by the Third Circuit, and therefore does not have precedential effect in the Sixth Circuit where Michigan colleges and universities are located, it nonetheless should serve as an important reminder to pay close attention to Title IX policies. The decision also comes shortly before the Biden administration is expected to release a Title IX notice of proposed rulemaking.

If you have any questions about this case, or Title IX issues in general, please contact Ryan Kauffman.

Fraser Trebilcock Attorney Ryan Kauffman

Ryan K. Kauffman is a Shareholder at Fraser Trebilcock with more than a decade of experience handling complex litigation matters and representing higher education institutions. You can contact him at or 517.377.0881.

Colleges Object to “Name, Image and Likeness” Public Information Requests from News Media

As the University of Georgia prepares to compete in the NCAA College Football Playoff championship, it’s also fighting another battle, on another playing field: defending itself against public record lawsuits following its refusal to disclose its athletes’ “name, image and likeness” contracts. A similar lawsuit has also been brought against Louisiana State University.

By way of background, in 2021, the NCAA announced an interim policy that allows student-athletes from all three divisions to monetize their name, image and likeness (often referred to as “NIL”). The new policy went into effect on July 1, 2021.

The NCAA’s new policy was enacted on the cusp of laws taking effect in a number of states, such as Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, New Mexico and Texas, which allow NCAA athletes to monetize their NIL.

The lawsuits against the University of Georgia and Louisiana State University were filed by two news organizations who sought details of NIL contracts, arguing that such records are not exempt from a public records request. In refusing the requests, the universities cited the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (“FERPA”), a federal law which protects certain records from public release without student or parent consent.

The court in the Louisiana State University case ultimately ruled against the news organization. At the time this post was written, the case against the University of Georgia was still pending.

As NIL deals become more common, and the dollar amounts of those deals grow larger, there will be increasing media scrutiny of them. As schools push back against public records requests, more lawsuits will be filed, and FERPA will likely continue to be cited as grounds for withholding records. Until a federal court of appeals has a chance to weigh in, there may be a patchwork of decisions with varying outcomes as to the question of whether the public has a right to the details of NIL deals at public universities.

We will continue to keep you apprised of developments in this evolving area of higher education law and regulations.

If you have any questions, please contact Ryan Kauffman.

Fraser Trebilcock Attorney Ryan Kauffman

Ryan K. Kauffman is a Shareholder at Fraser Trebilcock with more than a decade of experience handling complex litigation matters and representing higher education institutions. You can contact him at or 517.377.0881.

The Legal Documents All College Students Need

In just a few months, our high school graduates will head off to college. We’ll make sure they have the text books they need, the right-sized dorm sheets, perhaps even a min-fridge. But what about the proper legal documents? Despite what many parents think, the law does not give you the authority to act on behalf of an adult child. It’s crucial for anyone 18 and older to have a durable power of attorney and designation of patient advocate in place. These documents allow the student to authorize someone else – you – to act on his or her behalf should the need arise.

Continue reading The Legal Documents All College Students Need