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The following opinion is presented on-line for informational use only and does not replace the official version. (Mich Dept of Attorney General Web Site - www.ag.state.mi.us)



Opinion No. 5619

January 3, 1980


Protection of neglected or abused adults


Spouse abuse within jurisdiction of Department of Social Services


'Other persons'

The Department of Social Services may act upon request for protective services resulting from abuse to a person by a spouse or former spouse.

Honorable Connie Binsfeld

State House of Representatives

The Capitol

Lansing, Michigan

You have requested my opinion on the following question:

Whether the term 'or other persons' as it appears in 1939 PA 280, Sec. 14(1)(o) includes a spouse or a former spouse.

1939 PA 280, Sec. 14; MCLA 400.14; MSA 16.414, enumerates the powers and duties of the State Department of Social Services. In subsection (1)(o) the legislature has provided:

'To study and act upon request for service as to, or reports received of, neglect, exploitation, abuse, cruelty, or abandonment of adults by children, guardians, custodians, or other persons, or reports concerning adults in need of protection; and on the basis of the findings of the study, assure, where necessary, the provision of appropriate social services to those adults so that the behavior or situation causing the problem is corrected or the adult otherwise protected. The department in assuring the provision of these services, and in providing these services, shall encourage participation by other existing governmental units or licensed agencies and may contract with those agencies for the purchase of any service within the scope of this subdivision.

'The department shall initiate [sic] action in an appropriate court where the conduct of a parent, guardian, or custodian requires.

'The department shall promulgate rules pursuant to Act No. 306 of the Public Acts of 1969, as amended, necessary for implementing the services authorized in this subdivision. The rules shall include provision for local citizen participation in the program to assure local understanding, coordination, and cooperative action with other community resources. In the provision of services, there shall be maximum utilization of other public, private, and voluntary resources available within the community.' (Emphasis supplied)

It should be noted that the legislature added subsection (o) to 1939 PA 280, Sec. 14(1), supra, by means of 1976 PA 136.

The purpose of 1939 PA 280, Sec. 14(1)(o), supra, is clear. The Department of Social Services is charged with protecting adults who are neglected, exploited, abused, treated cruelly or abandoned by children, guardians, custodians or other persons. It is equally clear that this subsection of the statute is remedial legislation enacted to redress an existing grievance in our society by providing an appropriate remedy to protect the aged, the dependent, or the infirm adult. This statute, being remedial in nature, Rookledge v Garwood, 340 Mich 444; 65 NW2d 785 (1954), should be liberally construed. Oakland County Treasurer v Auditor General, 292 Mich 58; 290 NW 327 (1940).

The Michigan Supreme Court has considered the term 'other persons' appearing in a statute providing a remedy for every wife, husband, child, parent, guardian or other persons who shall be injured by an intoxicated person appearing in a liquor control statute in Hylo v Michigan Surety Company, 322 Mich 568; 34 NW2d 43 (1948). The court held that the term included all persons injured. McDaniel v Crapo, 326 Mich 555; 40 NW2d 724 (1950).

Under this authority and in light of the purposes of 1939 PA 280, Sec. 14(1)(o), supra, the term 'other persons' is broad enough to include a spouse of the adult or a former spouse of the adult since it was the intention of the legislature to protect neglected, exploited or abused adults from all persons. Indeed, it should be observed that aged adults have been known to be abused by strangers and especially in need of protective services afforded by the statute.

It is, therefore, my opinion that the Department of Social Services may act upon requests for protective services for abuse by a spouse or former spouse.

Frank J. Kelley

Attorney General

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