Howell Woman Wins After Appeals Court Admits Error
May 22, 2021
By Jon King / email@example.com
A three-judge panel at the Michigan Court of Appeals said it made mistakes in a dispute over applying for unemployment aid. It issued a new opinion Thursday in favor of a Livingston County woman who has been trying to get compensation since 2016.
“Conventional wisdom holds that we learn from our mistakes. ... Her brief helped us to acquire a more accurate understanding of the facts and the legal issue at the core of this case,” the court said.
The case involved Maggie Barnowski of Howell, who had sought benefits after losing her job at Advanced Medical in Livingston County.
Barnowski’s ordeal began when she received two notices from the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency listing two previous employers; Advanced Medical and Cleary University. Barnowski had left Cleary for a job at Advanced Medical. By the time she learned which document controlled the process, she was told it was too late to appeal.
The appeals court affirmed those decisions last summer. But on a request for reconsideration, the court said — oops — Barnowski actually did have “good cause” for a late appeal. She was represented by the University of Michigan law school’s Workers’ Rights Clinic.
“Our confusion about the notices exposed a legal reality: The notices were confusing, even to three Court of Appeals judges,” said judges Michael Gadola, Elizabeth Gleicher and Cynthia Stephens.
The judges said they understand why two notices were sent but the notices failed to “reasonably inform” Barnowski.
Barnowski told WHMI that she was pleased with the decision. "I hope going forward, the language used on unemployment forms becomes clearer. It makes me wonder how many other people were denied benefits due to unclear verbiage. I’m sure some people just give up for lack of understanding their rights. It’s frustrating."
Lawyers who follow the work of the appeals court were impressed. Lori Shemka highlighted an all-caps passage from the opinion and posted it on Twitter: “MISTAKES ARE TEACHING MOMENTS.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.