Circuit Court LC No. 14-013492-NF
Before: Swartzle, P.J., and Shapiro and Boonstra, JJ.
was a time under the common law when a witness had to swear
belief in a Supreme Being before testifying in court. This
time passed, and the common-law rule was set aside. Today, a
witness cannot be questioned about beliefs or opinions on
religion, and especial care must be taken that these beliefs
or opinions not be used to impair or enhance a witness's
the jury trial in this case, plaintiff's wife was asked
about her and her husband's religious opinions for the
purpose of bolstering her credibility, and this was error.
Whether this error requires automatic reversal or, instead,
this error requires a showing of prejudice before relief can
be had is the question we address here. Concluding that, in a
civil action, a party must show prejudice from the improper
admission of religious belief or opinion testimony before
reversal can be had, yet finding defendant has not shown such
prejudice here, and finding no other reversible error, we
Docket No. 336234, defendant Fremont Insurance Company
appeals as of right a judgment awarding plaintiff Abdul
Nahshal $130, 256.24 for no-fault personal injury protection
(PIP) benefits. In Docket No. 336919, defendant appeals as of
right the trial court's subsequent order awarding
plaintiff taxable costs, attorney fees, penalty interest, and
was involved in a roll-over automobile accident from which he
sustained injuries to his chest, shoulder, back, and neck.
Following the accident, plaintiff also suffered from
post-traumatic stress disorder. Before the accident,
plaintiff worked as a server at both the Detroit Athletic
Club and Greektown Casino, where he received compensation in
the form of wages and tips. Plaintiff returned to work at
Greektown Casino approximately five weeks after the accident,
but he had to change roles from server to cashier because of
his injuries. Plaintiff never returned to work at the Detroit
sought work-loss and related benefits from defendant, his
no-fault insurer, including nearly $5, 000 per month for lost
income and additional amounts for attendant-care and
replacement-services benefits. Plaintiff's wife testified
at trial that, for several weeks after the accident, it was
difficult for plaintiff to do anything because of his
injuries. According to plaintiff's wife, she had to help
plaintiff to the bathroom for approximately two weeks after
the accident. She submitted paperwork to defendant,
documenting the assistance she provided to plaintiff. As
relevant to this appeal, Attendant Care Service Compensation
Claim Forms for October and November 2013 record that
plaintiff's wife provided toileting assistance for 17
days. Plaintiff's primary-care physician corroborated
plaintiff's wife's testimony that plaintiff was
disabled from household duties and needed personal-attendant
claims specialist testified at trial that she determined
plaintiff's work-loss benefit to be $2, 500 per month
based on the calculation of a certified public accountant
(CPA). The difference between defendant's payment and
plaintiff's requested amount appears to be based on a
disagreement on how plaintiff's tip income should have
been calculated. The purported CPA's calculation is not
in the record. As of trial, defendant had paid plaintiff a
total of $40, 000 in work-loss and replacement-services
attempts were made to settle the matter before trial, and the
case-evaluation panel recommended a settlement in
plaintiff's favor. Defendant rejected the recommendation,
and the dispute proceeded to trial. At trial, defendant
argued that plaintiff made false statements to defendant to
bolster his claim and that dismissal was warranted based upon
a fraud-exclusion provision in defendant's policy. The
provision at issue is entitled "Concealment or
Fraud" and provides:
We will not cover any person seeking
coverage under this policy who has intentionally concealed or
misrepresented any material fact, made fraudulent statements,
or engaged in fraudulent conduct with respect to the
procurement of this policy or to any accident or loss for
which coverage is sought.
counsel brought up the subject of fraud with plaintiff's
wife, questioning whether plaintiff's wife's
recordkeeping was honest. On redirect, plaintiff's wife
testified as follows:
Q. Okay. Now Ms. Nahshal, are you a religious
[Defense Counsel]: Your Honor, objection to religion
and it's beyond the scope of my cross.
[Plaintiff's Counsel]: And he's attacking
her honesty, Your Honor.
[The Trial Court]: The Court will take the answer.
Q. And have you been a religious person all your
Q. Okay. And your husband, he, you married him the
year he came to the United States?
Q. Almost 31 years ago?
Q. And was he a religious person?
A. He was, he was a little, but when I married him
he got to be better, more.
Q. Okay. And how did that change after this
A. He used to go, when he used to come home from
work he used to stop at the local mosque and pray whatever
pray he's already, 'cause we pray five times a day.
So if one prayer already finished he'll go and pray and
come home, so.
A. And I see him, I see him, he used to pray, but
now I don't see him pray. I don't, we pray five times
a day like I said, I don't see him pray.
Q. Is honesty important to you?
A. It's very, very. Everybody knows me knows
Q. And have you been honest today and-
A. Yes, I have.
Q. -in the past?
Almost three years of recordkeeping for-
A. Yes, I have.
Q. -for the insurance company?