Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Michigan Supreme Court
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Consumers Energy Company filed an action against Brian and Erin Storm, and Lake Michigan Credit Union, seeking to condemn a portion of the Storms’ property for a power-line easement. The Storms challenged the necessity of the easement under the Uniform Condemnation Procedures Act (UCPA). The trial court concluded that Consumers had failed to establish the public necessity of the easement on the Storms’ property and entered an order dismissing Consumers’ action and awarding attorney fees to the Storms. Consumers appealed that order as of right to the Court of Appeals. The Storms moved to dismiss the appeal for lack of jurisdiction, arguing that under MCL 213.56(6), Consumers could only appeal the trial court’s public-necessity determination by leave granted. The Court of Appeals initially denied the motion by order, but the order was entered without prejudice to further consideration of the jurisdictional issue by the case -call panel. The Court of Appeals case-call panel issued an opinion in which it agreed with the Storms that the Court of Appeals lacked jurisdiction; the Court of Appeals therefore dismissed the portion of Consumers’ appeal challenging the trial court’s determination of public necessity. Despite dismissing the public-necessity portion of Consumers’ appeal, the Court of Appeals addressed Consumers’ challenge to the trial court’s award of attorney fees and vacated the attorney-fee award. The Michigan Supreme Court determined the Court of Appeals should have considered the condemning agency’s appeal as of right and reached the ultimate question of whether the trial court erred by holding that there was no public necessity for the proposed acquisition. “Therefore, it is not yet apparent that the proposed acquisition was improper such that the property owners would be entitled to reimbursement so as to avoid being ‘forced to suffer because of an action that they did not initiate and that endangered, through condemnation proceedings, their right to private property.’” Accordingly, the Supreme Court vacated the analysis construing MCL 213.66(2) in Part III of the Court of Appeals’ opinion, and remanded to that court for further proceedings. View "Consumers Energy Company v. Storm" on Justia Law

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Leslie Murphy, a former shareholder of Covisint Corporation, brought an action against Samuel Inman, III and other former Covisint directors, alleging they breached their statutory and common-law fiduciary duties owed to plaintiff when Covisint entered into a cash-out merger agreement with OpenText Corporation in 2017. Defendants moved for summary judgment, arguing plaintiff lacked standing because his claim was derivative in nature and he did not satisfy the requirements for bringing a derivative shareholder action under MCL 450.1493a. Plaintiff responded that he was permitted to bring a direct shareholder action under MCL 450.1541a, and that defendants owed common-law fiduciary duties to plaintiff as a shareholder. The trial court granted defendants’ motion, ruling that plaintiff lacked standing to bring a direct shareholder action because he could not demonstrate an injury to himself without showing injury to the corporation, nor could he show harm separate and distinct from that of other Covisint shareholders. The court also rejected plaintiff’s common-law theory because it arose out of the same alleged injury as his statutory claim. The Court of Appeals affirmed. The Michigan Supreme Court reversed, however, finding that a shareholder who alleges the directors of the target corporation breached their fiduciary duties owed to the shareholder in handling a cash-out merger could bring that claim as a direct shareholder action. The Court of Appeals erred by concluding that plaintiff’s claim was derivative. View "Murphy v. Inman" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Deborah Foster sought to hold defendant Ray Foster, in contempt of court for failing to abide by a provision in their consent judgment of divorce. The judgment stated that defendant would pay plaintiff 50% of his military disposable retired pay accrued during the marriage or, if defendant waived a portion of his military retirement benefits in order to receive military disability benefits, that he would continue to pay plaintiff an amount equal to what she would have received had defendant not elected to receive such disability benefits. Defendant subsequently elected to receive increased disability benefits, including Combat-Related Special Compensation (CRSC) under 10 USC 1413a. That election reduced the amount of retirement pay defendant received, which, in turn, reduced plaintiff’s share of the retirement benefits from approximately $800 a month to approximately $200 a month. Defendant did not comply with the offset provision by paying plaintiff the difference. The trial court denied plaintiff’s request to hold defendant in contempt, but ordered him to comply with the consent judgment. Defendant failed to do so, and plaintiff again petitioned for defendant to be held in contempt. Defendant did not appear at the hearing, but argued in a written response that the federal courts had jurisdiction over the issue. The court found defendant in contempt, granted a money judgment in favor of plaintiff, and issued a bench warrant for defendant’s arrest because of his failure to appear at the hearing. At a show-cause hearing in June 2014, defendant argued that 10 USC 1408 and 38 USC 5301 prohibited him from assigning his disability benefits and that the trial court had erred by not complying with federal law. The court found defendant in contempt and ordered him to pay the arrearage and attorney fees. The Michigan Supreme Court held that the type of federal preemption at issue in this case did not deprive state courts of subject-matter jurisdiction. As a result, the Supreme Court concluded defendant’s challenge to enforcement of the provision at issue was an improper collateral attack on a final judgment. View "Foster v. Foster" on Justia Law

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The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan (the ACLU) filed a complaint against the Calhoun County Jail and Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office (the CCSO), alleging CCSO violated Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) when it denied the ACLU’s request for documents. The ACLU sought disclosure of all records related to the December 2018 detention of United States citizen Jilmar Benigno Ramos-Gomez. Ramos-Gomez’s three-day detention at the Calhoun County Correctional Facility occurred pursuant to an Intergovernmental Service Agreement executed between United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the jail. The CCSO denied the ACLU’s request, asserting that the requested records were exempt from disclosure under MCL 15.243(1)(d) because they related to an ICE detainee. The Court of Appeals affirmed dismissal, finding the records at issue were exempt public records from disclosure under the statute. The Michigan Supreme Court reversed the appellate court, finding error in that court holding a federal regulation had the legal force of a federal statute; "federal regulation is not a federal statute." The case was remanded to the circuit court for further proceedings. View "American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan v. Calhoun County" on Justia Law

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Fraser Township filed a complaint against Harvey and Ruth Ann Haney, seeking a permanent injunction to enforce its zoning ordinance and to prevent defendants from raising on their commercially zoned property, hogs or other animals that would violate the zoning ordinance, to remove an allegedly nonconforming fence, and to plow and coat the ground with nontoxic material. Defendants brought a hog onto their property as early as 2006, and defendants maintained hogs on their property through the time this lawsuit was filed in 2016. Defendants moved for summary disposition, arguing that plaintiff’s claim was time-barred by the six-year statutory period of limitations in MCL 600.5813. The trial court denied the motion, concluding that because the case was an action in rem, the statute of limitations did not apply. The Court of Appeal reversed, finding that the statute of limitations applied. Finding that the appellate court erred in concluding the statute of limitations applied, the Michigan Supreme Court reversed and reinstated the trial court's order denying defendants' motion for summary judgment. View "Township of Fraser v. Haney" on Justia Law

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This action involved a request for documents under Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Plaintiff, the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan (the ACLU), submitted a FOIA request to defendant, the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office (the CCSO), seeking disclosure of all records related to the December 2018 detention of United States citizen Jilmar Benigno Ramos-Gomez. Ramos-Gomez’s three-day detention at the Calhoun County Correctional Facility occurred pursuant to an Intergovernmental Service Agreement (IGSA) executed between United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the jail. The CCSO denied the ACLU’s request, asserting that the requested records were exempt from disclosure under MCL 15.243(1)(d) because they related to an ICE detainee. The issue this case presented for the Michigan Supreme Court's review centered on whether a federal regulation with a nondisclosure component, 8 CFR 236.6 (2021), could be the basis for exempting public records from disclosure under MCL 15.243(1)(d). The Supreme Court held that it could not, "for the simple reason that a regulation is not a statute." The Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals’ holding to the contrary, and the Court overruled Soave v. Dep’t of Ed, and Mich Council of Trout Unlimited v. Dep’t of Military Affairs, as to their erroneous interpretations of MCL 15.243(1)(d). The case was remanded back to the Calhoun Circuit Court for further proceedings. View "American Civil Liberties Union Of Michigan v. Calhoun County Sheriff's Office" on Justia Law

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The Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) brought actions against claimants Frank Lucente and Michael Herzog, respectively, to appeal the decisions of the Michigan Compensation Appellate Commission (MCAC) that claimants were not required to pay restitution and fraud penalties under the Michigan Employment Security Act (MESA) despite the fact that they had improperly received unemployment benefits after becoming employed full-time and providing inaccurate responses to certification questions concerning their new employment. The Michigan Supreme Court found the Court of Appeals correctly held that MCL 421.62 authorized the UIA to issue original fraud and restitution determinations that were not subject to the constraints of MCL 421.32a. However, it erred by concluding that the UIA’s decision to issue “redeterminations” in these cases was of no substantive effect. "The UIA must issue an original determination alleging fraud, and its failure to do so was grounds for invalidating the 'redeterminations' in this case. On this issue, the payment of benefits cannot serve as an original 'determination' on the alleged fraud, and the UIA’s issuance of determinationless 'redeterminations' deprives claimants of their right to protest. When UIA-initiated review of a past-paid benefit results in a decision that the claimant received benefits during a period of ineligibility or disqualification and owes restitution as a result, the UIA must begin with an original 'determination' as described in MCL 421.62. The Court of Appeals' judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Michigan Unemployment Ins. Agy. v. Lucente" on Justia Law

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Kelly Bowman and her husband Vernon, brought a medical malpractice suit against St. John Hospital and Medical Center, Ascension Medical Group Michigan, and Tushar Parikh, M.D., alleging that Parikh erroneously advised Kelly Bowman that a growth in her breast was benign, on the basis of his interpretation of a 2013 mammogram. For the next two years, she felt the lump grow and sought follow-up care. In April 2015, she underwent a biopsy, which revealed “invasive ductal carcinoma with lobular features.” In May 2015, she was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer and underwent a double mastectomy, which revealed that the cancer had spread to a lymph node. In August 2016, soon after learning that the cancer had spread to her bone marrow, she sought a second opinion from a specialist and learned that the 2013 mammogram might have been misread. Defendants moved for summary judgment, contending the Bowmans' complaint was untimely under the applicable statute of limitations. The trial court denied the motion, and defendants appealed. The Court of Appeals reversed in a split decision. During the pendency of the proceedings, Kelly Bowman died, and her estate was substituted as plaintiff. The question for the Michigan Supreme Court's opinion was on whether Kelly Bowman "should have discovered the existence of [her claim] over six months before initiating proceedings. The Court answered, "no:" the record did not reveal Kelly Bowman should have known before June 2016 that her delayed diagnosis might have been caused by a misreading of the 2013 mammogram. "the available facts didn’t allow her to infer that causal relationship, and the defendants have not shown that Ms. Bowman wasn’t diligent. The present record does not allow us to conclude, as a matter of law, that Ms. Bowman sued over six months after she discovered or should have discovered the existence of her claim. And so we reverse the Court of Appeals’ judgment and remand to the trial court for further proceedings." View "Estate of Kelly Bowman v. St. John Hospital & Med. Ctr." on Justia Law

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The defendant-employer, Steel Technologies, Inc., asked the Michigan Supreme Court to consider whether a medical professional’s conclusory declaration of a claimant’s total disability, without more, could provide competent, material, and substantial evidence of “disability,” as defined by the Worker’s Disability Compensation Act (WDCA), MCL 418.101 et seq. The Supreme Court declined to do so because under the facts of this case, it was unnecessary to reach that issue. The Court instead vacated Part IV of the Court of Appeals’ opinion discussing the issue, but affirmed its result: the magistrate relied on competent, material, and substantial evidence to find that the plaintiff-claimant, Ahmed Omer, had established a disability and was entitled to wage-loss benefits. View "Omer v. Steel Technologies Inc." on Justia Law

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Donna Livings slipped on ice in her employer’s parking lot as she headed in to begin her shift. Generally, when an injury occurs because of an open and obvious condition, landowners in Michigan were not liable because they have no duty to protect against those hazards. An exception existed, however, when the hazard was effectively unavoidable. The question presented here was whether a hazard one must confront to enter his or her place of employment should be considered effectively unavoidable. The Michigan Supreme Court held that an open and obvious condition could be deemed effectively unavoidable when a plaintiff must confront it to enter his or her place of employment for work purposes. However, in assessing the question, it was still necessary to consider whether any alternatives were available that a reasonable individual in the plaintiff’s circumstances would have used to avoid the condition. Here, the Supreme Court agreed with the Court of Appeals that a genuine issue of material fact existed regarding whether the snow and ice were effectively unavoidable. View "Livings v. Sage's Investment Group, LLC" on Justia Law