While in the Wayne County jail on for alleged probation violations, Tara Hamed was raped by a Wayne County deputy sheriff. The deputy sheriff was fired and later convicted of criminal sexual conduct. Hamed sued him as well as the sheriff, Wayne County, and the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department on various theories of negligence and vicarious liability. After discovery – the process by which parties to a lawsuit obtain information from their opponents and others – Hamed was permitted to amend her complaint to include claims against Wayne County and the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department under the Michigan Civil Rights Act. MCRA prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in employment, or in places of public accommodation or public service; the act defines discrimination to include sexual harassment. MCL 37.2103(i)(i), MCL 37.2103(i).
The defendants moved to dismiss Hamed’s claims, arguing that MCRA did not apply because the jail is not a public accommodation or public service. The defendants also argued that they could not be held liable for the deputy sheriff’s criminal conduct because he acted outside the scope of his employment. Moreover, Hamed’s amended complaint should be dismissed because it was untimely filed, made new factual allegations, and was inconsistent with her own testimony, the defendants contended. The trial court granted summary disposition and dismissed the case on the ground that the defendants could not be liable for the sheriff’s crime.
Hamed appealed to the Court of Appeals, which reversed in a published opinion. The Court of Appeals panel concluded that MCRA applied to the defendants and that they could be held liable for the deputy sheriff’s actions based on a quid pro quo theory of sex harassment. The Court of Appeals also concluded that, because Hamed was not serving a criminal sentence in the jail, her treatment involved “public services” within the meaning of MCRA. Finally, the Court of Appeals held that the trial court did not err in permitting Hamed to amend her complaint to allege the civil rights violation. The defendants appeal.