Ralph C. Chapa Jr.

Ralph C. Chapa Jr.

Partner
Location:
Farmington Hills, Michigan
Phone:
800-763-4818
Fax:
248-626-2843
Email:

Chapa is an aggressive, experienced litigator. Chapa concentrates in insurance coverage and commercial litigation, as well as professional, liquor, premises, products and general liability.

A graduate of Michigan State University, Chapa advanced to Wayne State University Law School, where he earned his J.D. in 1987. He is admitted to the Michigan and Florida Bars and serves as a court appointed mediator and private arbitrator.

Martindale Hubbell Rating: AV - Very high to pre-eminent.

Recent published cases include Bennett v MIS Corp, in which summary judgment was successfully obtained on behalf of a Certified Industrial Hygienist in the US District Court, Eastern District, Southern Division, and affirmed by the US Court of Appeals, on the basis that there were no duties owed to the plaintiff separate and distinct from the obligations specifically delineated in a contract with the Federal Aviation Administration.  See, Bennett v MIS Crop, 607 F 3d 1026; (6th Cir. 2010); Bennett v MIS Corp, 2008 U.S. Dist., Lexis 67944 (E.D. Mich, September 5, 2008)

 

Areas of Practice

  • Insurance Litigation
  • Insurance Agents and Brokers Errors and Omissions
  • Personal Injury
  • Real Estate - Brokers and Agents Liability
  • Toxic Torts
  • Liquor Liability
  • Construction and Contractors Liability
  • Michigan No-Fault, First and Third-Party Liability

Litigation Percentage

  • 95% of Practice Devoted to Litigation

Bar Admissions

  • Florida, 1988
  • Michigan, 1987
  • U.S. District Court Eastern District of Michigan
  • U.S. District Court Western District of Michigan
  • U.S. Court of Appeals 6th Circuit

Education

  • Wayne State University Law School, Detroit, Michigan
    • J.D. - 1987
    • Honors: Delta Theta Phi
  • Michigan State University
    • B.A. - 1983

Representative Clients

  • Western Heritage Insurance Company
  • York Claims Services
  • US Claims Administrators
  • Cook Claims Services
  • Rafael & Associates
  • Knight Management Insurance Services
  • Kaufman Financial Group
  • Burns & Wilcox, Ltd
  • Scottsdale Insurance Company
  • United States Liability Insurance Company
  • The Markel Companies
  • Lexington Insurance Company
  • Essex Insurance Company
  • Investors Insurance Company
  • Evanston Insurance Company
  • Colony Insurance Company
  • CNA Insurance Companies
  • USF Insurance Company
  • RC Services
  • Fleming & Hall
  • Lasko Industries
  • Burlington Insurance Company
  • Hudson Insurance Group
  • Max Specialty Insurance
  • Haulers Insurance Company
  • Vela Insurance Service
  • State Farm Specialty Insurance
  • Prairie State Administrators
  • James River Insurance Company
  • Masum Specialty Insurance Company
  • National Specialty Insurance Company
  • Houston International Insurance Company
  • Alterra Insurance Company
  • Verus Underwriting Managers
  • Nautilus Insurance Company
  • Navigators Insurance Company
  • Colony Insurance Group
  • Atain Insurance
  • Lloyds of London
  • Occidental Life Insurance Company

Professional Associations and Memberships

  • Association of Defense Trial Counsel, President, 2014 - 2015
  • Association of Defense Trial Counsel, Vice President, 2013 - 2014
  • Association of Defense Trial Counsel, Treasurer, 2012 - 2013
  • Association of Defense Trial Counsel, Secretary, 2011 - 2012
  • Association of Defense Trial Counsel, Board of Directors, 2009 - 2011
  • Association of Defense Trial Counsel, Committee Chairperson, 2008 - 2009
  • Member of Claims & Litigation Management Alliance

Noteworthy Cases

Auto-Owners v Metal Masters, Lapeer County Circuit Court, October, 2017. Subrogation claim in excess of $250,000. Motion for Summary Disposition granted on based upon applicable 6 year Statute of Repose. The court agreed that plaintiff could not avail itself of the "discovery" provision of the statute as it too had been violated. No Appeal Followed.

Nicoloff v IXL Learning Center, Inc., Oakland County Circuit Court, July 2017. Motion for Summary Disposition granted on the basis that the defendant was entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Plaintiff minor alleged she broke her arm as a result of falling off playground equipment at a daycare facility. Plaintiff alleged failure to provide adequate supervision, utilization of playground equipment not suitable for children and failure to provide adequate woodchips under the playground equipment. In finding for the Defendant, the court noted that the facility provided in excess of the required supervisors by the Michigan Licensing Rules for Child Care Centers, that the equipment was certified by the Michigan Department of Human Services and exceeded standards promulgated by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission Handbook for Public Playground Safety. No Appeal followed.

Debra Yoas v Tuff Stuff Fitness Equipment: In May 2015, a Directed Verdict was successfully obtained on behalf of the client in the Monroe County Circuit Court. Plaintiff alleged Defendant failed to warn that a Smith weight machine “hook-and-peg” system could falsely engage, such that a weight bar could fall from the equipment and injure potential users. The defective design theory was abandoned prior to trial. Plaintiff, who was involved in a course of physical therapy, sued the manufacturer as well as the physical therapy facility retained to assist her with operation of the Smith machine. While using the Smith machine, the weight bar fell injuring plaintiff, causing significant injuries. The defense argued that there was no duty to warn because the physical therapy center that bought the equipment was a “Sophisticated User.” During the cross- examination, Plaintiff’s expert admitted that, under Michigan law, the physical therapy center was a “Sophisticated User.” After a three-day trial, upon Motion, the court granted a Directed Verdict. No appeal followed.

Greene v. A.P. Prods., Ltd., 475 Mich. 502: Plaintiff alleged a failure to warn that a product could be harmful for ingestion after her son died from ingesting hair oil. A Motion for Summary Disposition in favor of Defendant Super 7 Beauty Supply was successfully obtained in the Wayne County Circuit Court, on the basis that the danger of ingesting and inhaling the product was obvious to a reasonably prudent purchaser and therefore there was no duty to warn. After the Court of Appeals reversed the trial court decision, Defendant successfully obtained a reinstatement of the trial court order from the Supreme Court.

Firehouse Properties LLC. V. Lasko Products Inc.: A trial verdict in favor of Defendant Lasko Products Inc. was successfully obtained in the Kalamazoo Circuit Court. Plaintiff alleged a fire was started by a fan made by Lasko Products. Plaintiff claimed damages in excess of $5,000,000. After a three-week trial, the trial court returned a verdict that Defendant was not negligent in the production and design of the fan.

Novokshonova v. Dining, 2013 Mich. App. LEXIS 826: A Motion for Summary Disposition was successfully obtained on behalf of Defendant Royal Oak Dining LLC in Oakland County Circuit Court. Plaintiff was at a bar and around closing time when she tripped and hit her head on the bar's counter claiming that she had fallen on a red tablecloth. The trial court granted Defendant's Motion for Summary Disposition on the basis that the red table cloth was clearly visible and was an open and obvious condition. Defense was also successful in getting the decision affirmed by the Michigan Court of Appeals.

Kheder v. Seterus, Inc., 2013 Mich. App. LEXIS 586 (2013): A Motion for Summary Disposition was successfully obtained on behalf of Defendant Elite Maintenance in the Oakland County Circuit Court. Plaintiff had defaulted on a loan and alleged trespass and conversion when the Defendants took actions to secure the lender's interest. The trial court held that Defendant Elite's actions were reasonable and appropriate to protect the lender's interest and were, thus, authorized by plaintiffs. The Court of Appeals affirmed the Motion for Summary Judgment.

Radu v. Herndon & Herndon Investigations, Inc., 302 Mich. App. 363: Plaintiff was denied insurance coverage after an investigation, by Defendant Herndon & Herndon Investigations, declared his car caught fire because of arson. Plaintiff brought claims against the insurance company and Herndon, but settled with the insurance company. A Motion for Summary Disposition was successfully obtained on behalf of Defendant Herndon in the Oakland County Circuit Court, for two reasons, 1) The Court decided Herndon was an agent within the meaning of the release language in the settlement with the insurance company; and 2) Herndon had statutory immunity under MCL 29.4(6) because their fire investigation report was without fraud and was filed without malice.

Darlene Thompson v. Simply Self Storage: A Motion for Summary Disposition was successfully obtained on behalf of Defendant Simply Self Storage, on the basis that Defendant obeyed all the state laws of Michigan in the sale of Plaintiff's belongings after Plaintiff missed several payments on the storage unit that contained the belongings and Defendant was unable to reach Plaintiff at her listed address. Appeal was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction because the appeal was not timely filed.

Berry v. Dearborn Heights Montessori, 2012 Mich. App. LEXIS 61: In the Wayne County Circuit Court, a unanimous jury verdict in favor of Defendant Dearborn Heights Montessori school ("Montessori") was successfully obtained. Plaintiff, who was 5 years old and attending a function at the school sponsored by a third party, fell from a stage on which other children were playing and was injured. The unanimous jury decided that Defendant Montessori was not negligent. The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's decision after oral argument.

Foster-Smith v. Spratt, 2006 Mich. App. LEXIS 581: A Motion for Summary Disposition was successfully obtained in favor of Defendant Fast Pete's Hauling & Demolition after an appeal to the Michigan Court of Appeals. Plaintiff alleged willful and wanton misconduct, active negligence, and attractive nuisance against Defendants after her 16 year old daughter died while on a construction site at night. The trial court granted Defendant's Motion for Summary Disposition on the active negligence claim, but denied it on the basis of attractive nuisance and willful and wanton misconduct. The Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed the granting of the Motion on the active negligence and reversed the denial of the Motion in regards to the attractive nuisance and willful and wanton misconduct claims on the basis that Plaintiff could not show intention or indifference to constitute willful and wanton misconduct and the decedent was old enough to realize the risk on the construction site.

Grazia v. Sanchez, 199 Mich. App. 582: A Motion for Summary Disposition was successfully obtained in favor of Defendant Vidal Sanchez. Plaintiffs alleged that an arbitration agreement did not apply to the injuries they sustained because the agreement only applied to pre-operative testing. The Court held that arbitration agreement applied to the injury sustained and the case was dismissed because of the existence of the agreement to arbitrate. The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision.

El-Jabazwe v. Wells Fargo Home Mortg., 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 149854: A judgment on the pleadings was successfully obtained for Defendant Michael Brouchard in the US District Court, Eastern District, Southern Division on the basis that Defendant was not a state actor and therefore Plaintiff could not sustain a claim against Defendant.

Dehring v. Keystone Shipping Co., 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 104780: Plaintiff brought a design defect claim and failure to warn claim after severing his thumbs in an accident involving a winch designed by Defendant Benson Electric. A Motion for Summary Judgment was successfully obtained in favor of Defendant Benson Electric in the US District Court, Eastern District, Southern Division because the court declared Plaintiff could not show that the designer was at fault for the alleged defect or that there would have been a reduction of accidents under an alternative design.

New Jerusalem Deliverance Church v. Rabette, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 42901: Plaintiff claimed that a foreclosure and sale of its property after a default on its loan was a deprivation of its rights. A Motion for Summary Judgment in favor of Defendants, including the Oakland County Sheriff, was successfully obtained in the US District Court, Eastern District, Southern Division because the court held that the action by the special deputy was not a state action and therefore there was no claim to be made under 42 USCS 1983.

Thompkins-El v. Wells Fargo Bank Minn., 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 59126: A Motion to Dismiss in favor of Defendant was successfully obtained in the US District Court, Eastern District, Southern Division on the basis that the Court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiffs' claims after Plaintiff brought a subsequent law suit to Federal Court after losing on the same issue in a state court.

Published Works

  • "Beware and Prepare: Top Insurance Industry Issues in 2009 and Beyond", Agents Market Source Magazine, Summer 2009 (co-author)
  • "Know Thyself, Insure Thyself, E & O Coverages are Essential to Modern Insurance Practice", Insurance Journal, September 4, 2006
  • "Self-Insurance Retention Can Save Dollars and Improve Control over Liability Claims of Litigation", Business Insurance, September, 2006
  • "Recent Court of Appeals Case Reinforces an Insurance Agent's Duty to Advise Insureds", Michigan Lawyers Weekly, April 10, 2006