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Three plaintiffs' cases were consolidated for review; the plaintiffs were elderly women receiving long-term care in nursing homes. In each case, the “institutionalized spouse,” began receiving long-term care at a nursing home at her own expense. One to two months later, each plaintiff’s husband, a “community spouse,” created an irrevocable trust that was solely for his own benefit (a “solely for the benefit of,” or “SBO,” trust). The couples then transferred a majority of their individual and marital property to each SBO trust or its trustee, giving up any claim of title to that property. Distributions or payments from each SBO trust were to be made on an actuarially sound basis and solely to or for the benefit of the community spouse. The distribution schedule required that each trustee distribute the income and resources held by the trust to each community spouse at a rate that would deplete the trust within the community spouse’s expected lifetime. A short time after each SBO trust was formed, each institutionalized spouse applied for Medicaid benefits. The Department of Health and Human Services and its director (collectively, the Department) determined that each institutionalized spouse did not show the requisite financial need because the value of the trust assets put their countable resources above the monetary threshold, and it denied each application. In each case, the plaintiff unsuccessfully contested the Department’s decision in an administrative appeal, but each decision was then reversed on appeal at the circuit court. On appeal in the Court of Appeals, all three cases were consolidated, and the Department’s denial decisions were reinstated. The Michigan Supreme Court concluded that the Court of Appeals erred in its interpretation of the controlling federal statutes, which caused the Court of Appeals to improperly reinstate the Department’s denial decisions. Because the administrative hearing decision in each case suffered from "the same faulty reasoning" used by the Court of Appeals, the Court surmised that legal error may have caused the administrative law judges (ALJs) to forgo a more thorough review of the Medicaid applications at issue or to disregard other avenues of legal analysis. Therefore, rather than order that the Medicaid applications be approved at this time, the Court vacated the hearing decision of the ALJ in each case and remanded these cases to the appropriate administrative tribunal for any additional proceedings necessary to determine the validity of the Department’s decision to deny plaintiffs’ Medicaid applications. View "Hegadorn v. Dept. of Human Services" on Justia Law

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Alonzo Carter was convicted by jury of assault with intent to do great bodily harm (AWIGBH); being a felon in possession of a firearm (felon-in-possession); intentional discharge of a firearm at a dwelling; felonious assault; and carrying or possessing a firearm when committing or attempting to commit a felony (felony-firearm) second offense. Defendant was involved in a verbal altercation with Lawrence Sewell outside Sewell’s apartment. Defendant returned to Sewell’s apartment and attempted to lure Sewell to the door by impersonating a maintenance worker. Sewell looked through the door’s peephole and saw defendant waiting outside wearing a ski mask and holding a firearm. Sewell did not allow defendant to enter, and defendant fired three shots through the apartment door at chest level. Two shots skipped off the apartment floor and through a window, while another punctured an air mattress on which an infant child slept. At issue in this case was whether each separate pull of the trigger constituted a separate “act” under Offense Variable (OV) 12 (contemporaneous felonious acts). The Michigan Supreme Court concluded the evidence did not support the conclusion that the jury considered only one shot when deliberating over the elements of AWIGBH, and held that it was inappropriate to assess defendant 10 points under OV 12. Further, because reducing defendant’s OV score to rectify this error would reduce the applicable guidelines range, resentencing was required. View "Michigan v. Carter" on Justia Law

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Defendant Larry Mead was convicted by jury for possession of methamphetamine as a fourth-offense habitual offender. Defendant was a passenger in a car when the police pulled it over, ordered him out, and searched his backpack. He thought that search was unconstitutional, and "a straightforward application of well-settled Fourth Amendment jurisprudence - complicated only by a peremptory order of [the Michigan Supreme Court], People v LaBelle, 478 Mich 891 (2007) - says he’s right." The Supreme Court overruled LaBelle, concluding defendant had a legitimate expectation of privacy to his backpack, and the warrantless search of that item was unreasonable because the driver lacked apparent common authority to consent to the search. The Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals, vacated the trial court's order denying defendant's motion to suppress, and remanded the case back to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Michigan v. Mead" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Paulette Stenzel was injured after her new refrigerator began to spray water out of its water dispenser onto her kitchen floor, causing her to slip and fall. She filed a timely complaint alleging negligence, breach of contract, and breach of warranty against defendant Best Buy Co., Inc., which had sold and installed the refrigerator. Best Buy filed a notice of nonparty fault, identifying defendant-appellant Samsung Electronics America, Inc., as the refrigerator’s manufacturer. Plaintiff added a claim against Samsung in an amended complaint, and Samsung moved for summary judgment, arguing that plaintiff’s claim against it was untimely because plaintiff had not first moved to amend under MCL 600.2957(2) and therefore was not entitled to the relation-back privilege set forth in that statute. The trial court granted Samsung’s motion, but the Court of Appeals reversed. The Michigan Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals: a party may amend a pleading upon receipt of notice of nonparty fault pursuant to MCR 2.112(K) without filing a motion for leave to amend, and the amended pleading relates back to the original action pursuant to MCL 600.2957(2). View "Stenzel v. Best Buy Company, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs were former recipients of unemployment compensation benefits who allege that the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency (the Agency) unlawfully seized their property without affording due process of law. The issue their appeal presented for the Michigan Supreme Court’s review centered on whether plaintiffs gave timely notice of their due-process claims to the Agency, and therefore were entitled to consideration of the merits of their claims. More specifically, the issue concerned whether plaintiffs filed notices of intention to file their claims or the claims themselves “within 6 months following the happening of the event giving rise to the cause of action.” The Supreme Court held that the “happening of the event giving rise to the cause of action” for a claim seeking monetary relief was when the claim accrued, and a procedural-due-process claim seeking monetary relief accrued when the deprivation of life, liberty, or property occurred. Here, plaintiffs were deprived of their property when their tax refunds were seized or their wages garnished. As a result, plaintiffs Bauserman and Broe timely filed their claims within six months following the deprivation of their property, while plaintiff Williams did not. Accordingly, the Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the Court of Appeals and remanded to that court for further proceedings. View "Bauserman v. Unemployment Insurance Agency" on Justia Law

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Robert Lewis was convicted on one count of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, and five counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct for sexually assaulting his live-in girlfriend’s daughters. Defendant appealed, challenging his convictions and the amount of attorney fees assessed against him. The Court of Appeals affirmed defendant’s convictions and sentences in an unpublished per curiam opinion, holding that the trial court properly awarded attorney fees without making findings of fact regarding the award of attorney fees because the language of MCL 769.1k(1)(b)(iii) and (iv) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, MCL 760.1 et seq., was clear such that a separate calculation of costs was not required. The Michigan Supreme Court concluded a sentencing court could not impose attorney fees pursuant to MCL 769.1k(1)(b)(iv) without first making findings to support the amount of the fees, reversed the Court of Appeals' opinion holding to the contrary, and remanded this case for such findings. The Supreme Court affirmed Lewis' convictions. View "Michigan v. Lewis" on Justia Law

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Voters Not Politicians (VNP) was a ballot-question committee. It filed the initiative petition at issue in this case with defendant Michigan Secretary of State. The initiative proposal would, among other things, amend Const 1963, art 4, section 6, which established a commission to regulate legislative redistricting. The commission prescribed by Michigan's present Constitution was inactive because the Michigan Supreme Court declared that it could not be severed from apportionment standards contained in the Michigan Constitution that had been held to be unconstitutional. After that ruling, the Supreme Court oversaw redistricting until the Legislature took control of the process. VNP’s proposal would bring Michigan’s constitutional redistricting standards in line with federal constitutional requirements and revive the redistricting commission’s authority to set redistricting plans for the state house, state senate, and federal congressional districts. A sufficient number of registered electors signed the petition for it to be placed on the November 2018 general election ballot. Before the Board of State Canvassers could certify the petition for placement on the ballot, plaintiff Citizens Protecting Michigan’s Constitution (CPMC), along with other plaintiffs, filed a complaint for a writ of mandamus directing the Secretary of State and the Board to reject the VNP proposal. CPMC argued that the proposal was not an amendment of the Constitution that could be proposed by petition under Const 1963, art 12, section 2; rather, the proposal amounted to a “general revision” of the Constitution and could be enacted only through a constitutional convention under Const 1963, art 12, section 3. The Court of Appeals granted the request by VNP and other parties to intervene as defendants and to file a cross-complaint seeking a writ of mandamus requiring the proposal to be placed on the ballot. The Supreme Court took this case to determine whether the VNP petition was a constitutionally permissible voter-initiated amendment under Const 1963, art 12, section 2, and concluded after a thorough review, that VNP's proposal was a permissible voter-initiated amendment. View "Citizens Protecting Michigan's Constitution v. Secretary of State" on Justia Law

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The decedent, James Erwin, Sr., had six children from a previous marriage when he married appellee Maggie Erwin in 1968. James and Maggie had four children together, bringing James’s total number of children to 10. Several years after their wedding, James and Maggie bought a house in Saginaw. However, although remaining in Saginaw, Maggie moved out and established a separate residence in 1976. She subsequently petitioned James for financial assistance, and James consented to a support order that provided assistance for Maggie and for their children. But the two continued to live apart. There was no indication that they ever lived under the same roof again. Decades later, in 2010, James and Maggie joined together as plaintiffs and sued James’s employer to reinstate Maggie’s health insurance coverage in accordance with his retiree medical benefits. James made it clear that Maggie was still his wife and that they had an ongoing relationship. James died intestate in 2012. James and Maggie had never filed for divorce nor had they otherwise formally separated. In the eyes of the law, they remained married until the time of James’s passing. Dissatisfied with the communication and cooperation shown by Maggie and her four children, one of James’s children from his first marriage, Beatrice King, represented by her attorney-brother, L. Fallasha Erwin, petitioned the probate court to open formal proceedings and to be appointed as the estate’s personal representative. The probate court proceedings were contentious from the outset. Beatrice asked the probate court to determine whether Maggie was a surviving spouse in accordance with Estates and Protected Individuals Code (EPIC). Beatrice argued, in part, that Maggie was not a surviving spouse under MCL 700.2801(2)(e)(i) because she was “willfully absent” from James in the years leading up to his death. If proved, because James died intestate, Maggie would not be an heir for the purposes of inheritance, and she would not be entitled to a share of James’s estate. The Court of Appeals concluded that “willful absence for the purposes of the EPIC was a factual question that may concern more than physical proximity,” and that a “trial court should determine whether a spouse is willfully absent . . . by considering all the facts and circumstances of the case.” The issues this case presented for the Michigan Supreme Court's review were both ones of first impression: (1) whether the term “willfully absent” was defined exclusively by physical separation, or whether it included consideration of the emotional bonds and connections between spouses; and (2) whether MCL 700.2801(2)(e)(i) required proof that a spouse intends to abandon his or her marital rights. The Supreme Court held the appellate court correctly concluded Maggie was not "willfully absent" from James in the years leading up to his death, and affirmed. View "In re Erwin Estate" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates

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Two cases were consolidated, both arising from separate incidents where plaintiffs were individually stopped and questioned by Grand Rapids Police Department (GRPD) officers. During these stops, plaintiffs’ photographs and fingerprints were taken in accordance with the GRPD’s “photograph and print” (P&P) procedures. Alleging that the P&Ps violated their constitutional rights, plaintiffs filed separate civil lawsuits against the city of Grand Rapids (the City), as well as against the individual police officers involved. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of all defendants in both cases. Plaintiffs each appealed by right, and the Court of Appeals affirmed in separate opinions. Relevant here, both opinions affirmed summary judgment in favor of the City on plaintiffs’ municipal-liability claims on grounds that a policy that does not direct or require police officers to take a specific action cannot give rise to municipal liability under 42 USC 1983. The Michigan Supreme Court disagreed with the Court of Appeals with regard to that issue and held that a policy or custom that authorizes, but does not require, police officers to engage in specific conduct may form the basis for municipal liability. “Additionally, when an officer engages in the specifically authorized conduct, the policy or custom itself is the moving force behind an alleged constitutional injury arising from the officer’s actions.” Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed in part the judgments of the Court of Appeals, and remanded these cases to the Court of Appeals for further consideration. View "Johnson v. Vanderkooi" on Justia Law

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Audrey Trowell filed an action against Providence Hospital and Medical Centers, Inc., after she sustained injuries while she was hospitalized. At issue in this case was whether plaintiff’s claims sounded in medical malpractice or ordinary negligence. If her claims implicated medical malpractice, then they were barred by the two-year statute of limitations applicable to medical malpractice actions and defendant was entitled to summary judgment under MCR 2.116(C)(7). If her claims sounded in ordinary negligence, then they were timely. The Court of Appeals couldn't tell based solely on the basis of the allegations in the complaint, so it remanded for an evidentiary hearing to determine whether plaintiff’s claims were in medical malpractice, ordinary negligence, or both. The Michigan Supreme Court disagreed with this approach, holding that under the facts of this case, in which the only material submitted to the trial court was plaintiff’s complaint, the remand was improper and in determining the nature of plaintiff’s claims, the lower courts’ review was limited to the complaint alone. A proper review of the allegations in plaintiff’s complaint lead the Supreme Court to conclude that although the complaint included some claims of medical malpractice, it also contains one claim of ordinary negligence. The case was remanded to proceed on the ordinary negligence claims. View "Trowell v. Providence Hospital & Medical Centers, Inc." on Justia Law