Articles Posted in Michigan Supreme Court

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Plaintiffs Steven and Jane Iliades brought a products-liability action against Dieffenbacher North America Inc., alleging negligence, gross negligence, and breach of warranty after plaintiff was injured by a rubber molding press defendant manufactured. Plaintiff was injured when he attempted to retrieve parts that had fallen to the floor inside the press by reaching behind the light curtain without first placing the press into manual mode. Because of plaintiff’s position behind the light curtain, the light curtain was not interrupted, the press resumed its automatic operation, and plaintiff was trapped between the two plates of the press. The trial court granted summary disposition to defendant, ruling that plaintiff had misused the press given the evidence that he had been trained not to reach into the press while it was in automatic mode, knew how to place the press into manual mode, knew that the light curtain was not meant to be used as an emergency stop switch, and knew that the press would automatically begin its cycle if the light curtain was no longer interrupted. The court further ruled that plaintiff’s misuse was not reasonably foreseeable because plaintiff had not presented any evidence that defendant could have foreseen that a trained press operator would crawl beyond a light curtain and partially inside a press to retrieve a part without first disengaging the press. The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded in an unpublished per curiam opinion, holding that, regardless of whether plaintiff had misused the press, defendant could be held liable because plaintiff’s conduct was reasonably foreseeable. The Michigan Supreme Court determined that whether the misuse was reasonably foreseeable depended on whether defendant knew or should have known of the misuse, not on whether plaintiff was grossly negligent in operating the press. Because the majority of the Court of Appeals did not decide whether and how plaintiff misused the press, and because it did not apply the common-law meaning of reasonable foreseeability, the Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals and remanded for reconsideration of summary judgment entered in defendant’s favor. View "Iliades v. Dieffenbacher North America, Inc." on Justia Law

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In 2014, Bruce Millar brought an action against the Construction Code Authority (CCA), Elba Township, and Imlay City, alleging violation of the Whistleblowers’ Protection Act (WPA); wrongful termination in violation of public policy; and conspiracy to effectuate wrongful termination and violate the WPA. Millar had performed mechanical and plumbing inspection services for the CCA, which had contracts with Imlay City and Elba Township to provide licensed inspections. Imlay City and Elba Township each wrote letters to the CCA directing it to terminate Millar’s inspection services within their communities. In response, the CCA drafted a letter to Millar stating that he would no longer perform inspections in those communities, but it was not until Millar arrived at work on March 31 that he was given a copy of the CCA. That same day, he was prevented from working in Imlay City. The circuit court granted summary judgment on all counts to defendants, ruling that the WPA claim was time-barred because the WPA violation occurred, at the latest, on March 27, when the CCA drafted its letter, and therefore Millar had filed his claim one day after the 90-day limitations period in MCL 15.363(1) had run. The court also concluded that the WPA preempted Millar’s public-policy claim. The Court of Appeals affirmed in an unpublished per curiam opinion. The Michigan Supreme Court reversed, finding the limitations period on plaintiff's WPA claim did not begin to run until the CCA letter was given to him, or March 31. Because plaintiff's complaint was filed 87 days later, it was timely filed under MCL 15.36.(1). View "Millar v. Construction Code Authority" on Justia Law

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A trial court granted Zaid Safdar a divorce from Donya Aziz. The judgment provided the parties would hare joint legal custody of their minor child and that defendant would have sole physical custody of the child. The wife appealed the court’s denial of her motion for attorney fees in relation to the judgment. While that appeal was pending with the Court of Appeals, the wife moved the trial court for a change of domicile. The trial court denied the motion, reasoning that under MCR 7.208(A), it lacked the authority to modify the custody order while defendant’s appeal of the attorney-fee award was pending in the Court of Appeals. The court rejected the wife's reliance on Lemmen v Lemmen, 481 Mich 164 (2008), which held that under MCL 552.17(1) and MCR 7.208(A)(4), a trial court may modify an order or judgment concerning child support or spousal support after a claim of appeal is filed or leave to appeal is granted. The wife appealed the denial of her d for leave to appeal in the Court of Appeals, which granted the application. The Court of Appeals reversed in a per curiam opinion, holding that Lemmen also applied to judgments concerning the care and custody of children. The husband appealed. The Michigan Supreme Court held that MCL 722.27(1) authorized the continuing jurisdiction of a circuit court to modify or amend its previous judgments or orders and was an exception to MCR 7.208(A) “otherwise provided by law.” Accordingly, the Supreme Court vacated the Court of Appeals decision to the extent it derived jurisdiction from MCL 552.17, affirmed the result reached, and remanded to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Safdar v. Aziz" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Marlette Auto Wash, LLC claimed it had an easement through a parking lot owned by defendant Van Dyke SC Properties, LLC, for customers to access a car wash that plaintiff had purchased in 2007. Defendant counterclaimed, seeking to quiet title and obtain monetary damages for expenses relating to maintenance of the lot. The parties’ parcels were originally owned as a single unimproved tract of land; in 1988, land was to B & J Investment Company, which was owned in part by James Zyrowski, and split into two parcels. B & J opened a car wash on the corner parcel in 1989. Although the car wash was initially accessible from both the highway and the street, car wash customers generally used the parking lot of the adjoining parcel to get to and from the car wash. This adjoining parcel was sold to Marlette Development Corporation in 1988, which opened a shopping center in 1990. When Marlette Development’s deed was recorded, no easement was reserved for the benefit of the car wash property, and car wash customers continued to use the parking lot for access. In 2000, the village of Marlette closed the street entrance to the car wash. Car wash customers continued to use the parking lot for access without incident until Marlette Development sold its property to defendant in 2013. At this point, defendant’s sole owner, James Zyrowski informed plaintiff that unless it contributed money to maintain the parking lot, Zyrowski would close off access to the car wash through the parking lot. Plaintiff claimed a prescriptive easement for ingress and egress over defendant’s property on the basis of plaintiff’s open, notorious, adverse, and continuous use of that property for at least 15 years. The question presented for the Michigan Supreme Court was whether such use created a prescriptive easement that was appurtenant, without regard to whether the previous owner of the dominant estate took legal action to claim the easement. The answer to that inquiry is yes; the Supreme Court determined the Court of Appeals erred by requiring plaintiff to establish privity of estate with the previous owner, regardless of whether plaintiff could establish that the elements of a prescriptive easement were satisfactorily met by that prior owner. Moreover, the Court of Appeals erred by holding that the previous owner of the dominant estate must have taken legal action to claim the prescriptive easement in order for plaintiff to prove that a prescriptive easement had vested during the preceding property owner’s tenure. “Title by adverse possession is gained when the period of limitations expires, not when legal action quieting title to the property is brought.” View "Marlette Auto Wash, LLC v. Van Dyke SC Properties, LLC" on Justia Law

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At issue before the Michigan Supreme Court in this case is whether plaintiff, arguing that venue was improper, could avail herself of MCR 2.223(A), which permitted a court to order a venue change “on timely motion of a defendant,” MCR 2.223(A)(1), or on the court’s “own initiative,” MCR 2.223(A)(2). This case arose out of a fatal automobile accident in Lake County between defendant Rodney Hall and decedent James Armour II. Plaintiff Joanne Dawley, Armour’s spouse, sued Hall in Wayne County in August 2014. Defendant moved to transfer venue to Mason County or Lake County, alleging among other things that he conducted business in Mason County by owning and operating Barothy Lodge. The Wayne Circuit Court granted the motion and transferred venue to Mason County in March 2015. Ten months later, plaintiff moved under MCR 2.223 to change venue back to Wayne County, alleging that discovery had revealed that defendant did not, in fact, own the resort in his name; he was merely a member of Hall Investments, LLC, which owned the resort. Therefore, according to plaintiff, venue in Mason County was improper because defendant did not conduct business there. The trial court disagreed, but the Court of Appeals reversed and remanded for transfer of venue to Wayne County. Defendant appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing among other things that MCR 2.223 did not permit a plaintiff to move for transfer of venue. The Supreme Court found that because plaintiff’s motion was neither a motion by defendant nor an action on the court’s “own initiative,” it held plaintiff could not file a motion for a change of venue under MCR 2.223(A). Accordingly, the Court vacated the Court of Appeals’ decision ordering transfer of venue. View "Estate of James Armour II v. Hall" on Justia Law

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In Docket No. 151800, Clam Lake Township and Haring Charter Township (the Townships) appealed the determination of the State Boundary Commission (the Commission) that an agreement entered into under the Intergovernmental Conditional Transfer of Property by Contract Act (Act 425 agreement) between the Townships was invalid. In Docket No. 153008, as the Commission proceedings in Docket No. 151800 were ongoing, TeriDee, LLC brought an action against the Townships, seeking a declaratory judgment that the Act 425 agreement was void as against public policy because it contracted away Haring’s zoning authority by obligating Haring’s zoning board to rezone pursuant to the agreement. The Act 425 agreement at issue here sought to transfer to Haring Charter Township an undeveloped parcel of roughly 241 acres of land in Clam Lake Township that was zoned for forest-recreational use. The agreement provided a description of the Townships’ desired economic development project, including numerous minimum requirements for rezoning the property. Approximately 141 acres of the land were owned by TeriDee LLC, the John F. Koetje Trust, and the Delia Koetje Trust (collectively, TeriDee), who wished to develop the land for commercial use. To achieve this goal, TeriDee petitioned the Commission to have the land annexed by the city of Cadillac. The Commission found TeriDee’s petition legally sufficient and concluded that the Townships’ Act 425 agreement was invalid because it was created solely as a means to bar the annexation and not as a means of promoting economic development. The Townships appealed the decision in the circuit court, and the court upheld the Commission’s determination, concluding that the Commission had the power to determine the validity of an Act 425 agreement. The Townships sought leave to appeal in the Court of Appeals, which the Court of Appeals denied in an unpublished order. The Michigan Supreme Court held: (1) the State Boundary Commission did not have the authority to determine the validity of the Act 425 agreement and could only find whether an agreement was "in effect"; and (2) an Act 425 agreement can include requirements that a party enact particular zoning ordinances, and the Court of Appeals erred by concluding to the contrary. TeriDee's annexation petition was preempted. Both cases were remanded to the circuit court for further proceedings. View "Clam Lake Township v. Dept. of Licensing & Reg. Affairs" on Justia Law

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Baruch SLS, Inc., a Michigan nonprofit corporation, sought exemptions from real and personal property taxes as a charitable institution under MCL 211.7o and MCL 211.9 for tax years 2010–2012. Petitioner based its request on the fact that it offered an income-based subsidy to qualifying residents of Stone Crest Assisted Living, one of its adult foster care facilities, provided those residents had made at least 24 monthly payments to petitioner. The Tax Tribunal ruled that Stone Crest was not eligible for the exemptions because petitioner did not qualify as a charitable institution under three of the six factors set forth in Wexford Med Group v City of Cadillac, 474 Mich 192 (2006). The Court of Appeals reversed with respect to two of the Wexford factors, but affirmed the denial of the exemptions on the ground that petitioner had failed to satisfy the third Wexford factor because, by limiting the availability of its income-based subsidy, petitioner offered its services on a discriminatory basis. The Michigan Supreme Court found the third factor in the Wexford test excluded only restrictions or conditions on charity that bore no reasonable relationship to a permissible charitable goal. Because the lower courts did not consider Baruch’s policies under the proper understanding of this factor, the Court vacated the Court of Appeals’ and Tax Tribunal’s opinions in part and remanded this case to the Tax Tribunal for further proceedings. View "Baruch SLS, Inc. v. Twp of Tittabawassee" on Justia Law

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Jeffrey and Carol Haksluoto filed a medical malpractice claim against Mt. Clemens Regional Medical Center, General Radiology Associates, PC, and Eli Shapiro, DO, for injuries Jeffrey sustained after he was misdiagnosed in Mt. Clemens’s emergency room. Plaintiffs mailed a notice of intent (NOI) to file a claim on December 26, 2013, the final day of the two-year statutory period of limitations. Plaintiffs filed their complaint on June 27, 2014, which was 183 days after service of the NOI. Defendants moved for summary judgment, arguing that the suit was barred by the two-year statute of limitations. The trial court denied defendants’ motion. Defendants appealed, and the Court of Appeals reversed, holding that MCR 1.108 (the rule concerning the calculation of time) was best understood to signify that the 182-day notice period began on December 27, 2013 (the day after plaintiffs served the NOI) and expired on June 26, 2014, which meant that the notice period did not commence until one day after the limitations period had expired, and therefore filing the NOI on the last day of the limitations period failed to toll the statute of limitations. The Michigan Supreme Court granted plaintiffs’ application for review, finding the trial court was correct in its calculation of time. View "Haksluoto v. Mt. Clemens Regional Med. Ctr." on Justia Law

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Defendant operated a parochial school to which plaintiff was denied admission. When plaintiff sued on the basis of disability discrimination, defendant moved for summary judgment, arguing among other things that, under the ecclesiastical abstention doctrine, the circuit court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over her claim. Central to defendant’s argument was Dlaikan v Roodbeen, 522 NW2d 719 (1994), which applied the doctrine to conclude that a circuit court had no such jurisdiction over a challenge to the admissions decisions of a parochial school. The circuit court denied defendant’s motion. The Court of Appeals, however, was convinced by defendant’s jurisdictional argument and reversed, thereby granting summary judgment in defendant’s favor. The Michigan Supreme Court disagreed with the appellate court’s determination: “[w]hile Dlaikan and some other decisions have characterized the ecclesiastical abstention doctrine as depriving civil courts of subject matter jurisdiction, it is clear from the doctrine’s origins and operation that this is not so. The ecclesiastical abstention doctrine may affect how a civil court exercises its subject matter jurisdiction over a given claim; it does not divest a court of such jurisdiction altogether. To the extent Dlaikan and other decisions are inconsistent with this understanding of the doctrine, they are overruled.” View "Winkler v. Marist Fathers of Detroit, Inc." on Justia Law

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Daniel Kemp sued his no-fault insurer, Farm Bureau General Insurance Company of Michigan, seeking personal protection insurance (PIP) benefits under the parked motor vehicle exception in MCL 500.3106(1)(b) for an injury he sustained while unloading personal items from his parked motor vehicle. Farm Bureau moved for summary disposition under MCL 2.116(C)(10) on the basis that Kemp had not established any genuine issue of material fact regarding whether he satisfied MCL 500.3106. Kemp responded by asking the trial court to deny Farm Bureau’s motion and, instead, to grant judgment to Kemp under MCR 2.116(I)(2). The trial court granted Farm Bureau's motion for summary judgment. The Michigan Supreme Court reversed, finding that Kemp satisfied the transportational function required as a matter of law, and created a genuine issue of material fact concerning whether he satisfied the parked vehicle exception in MCL 500.3106(1)(b) and the corresponding causation requirement. Therefore, the trial court erred in granting summary judgment, and the Court of Appeals erred in affirming the trial court. The matter was remanded for further proceedings. View "Kemp v. Farm Bureau Gen. Ins. Co. of Michigan" on Justia Law