New trial is the way to proceed

Robert and Laurie Rastovski will get a new trial for their claim against North Pointe Insurance Company after their business, Welch’s Steak and Ribs in Sturgis, was leveled in a 2009 arson.

The insurance company refused to pay on the policy after it claimed Robert Rastovski had hired an arsonist to burn the business on Fawn River Road.

During the trial in early 2012, it was divulged that Dustin Gonser admitted committing the arson with the assistance of fugitive Nathan Lumbard.

According to testimony, Lumbard claimed Rastovski and Gonser had conspired to do the arson together. Gonser, however, repeatedly denied any interaction with Rastovski and denied that Rastovski paid him to burn the restaurant.

At the end of the trial, attorneys for the Rastovskis asked Circuit Judge Paul Stutesman to issue a judgment for them despite the verdict or grant a new trial because of confusion of the jury’s decision.

Stutesman awarded the Rastovskis their claim against North Pointe, though he did not rule on the request for a new trial while North Pointe appealed.

An opinion issued Thursday by the Michigan Court of Appeals said a new trial was the proper way to proceed, not the “judgment not withstanding the verdict.”

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