From the Detroit Free Press
Michigan residents who say the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency has put them through hell sat in a Detroit courtroom Friday and struggled to understand highly technical legal arguments that will determine whether they can seek damages against the state.
Over a two-year period, the state falsely accused at least 20,000 — and possibly more than 40,000 — unemployment insurance claimants of committing fraud, after a $47-million computer system was allowed to run amok without human supervision.
The agency has apologized, but is also pleading governmental immunity as it tries to block a class action by former claimants who suffered highest-in-the-nation quadruple penalties and aggressive collection techniques, such as wage garnishment and seizure of income tax refunds.
If the harm didn’t happen until the state seized money from the claimants, as Royal Oak attorney Jennifer Lord argues on behalf of the plaintiffs, then the lawsuit can proceed.
Karl Williams of Lansing, who was accused of fraudulently receiving $9,000 in benefits and since has paid more than $50,000 to the state, said it’s “complete garbage” that the state is fighting the lawsuit on technicalities.
Lord said the case is “a rare example where a government basically committed theft against its own citizens” and made “millions and millions and millions of dollars” through what became “a cash cow.”