Justia Michigan Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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Meemic Insurance Company filed suit against Louise and Richard Fortson, individually and as conservator of their son, Justin Fortson, alleging that Richard and Louise had fraudulently obtained payment for attendant-care services they did not provide to Justin. In 2009, Justin was injured when he fell from the hood of a motor vehicle, necessitating constant supervision and long-term care. Richard and Louise opted to provide attendant care to Justin in their home on a full-time basis. Justin received benefits under his parents’ no-fault policy with Meemic, and from 2009 until 2014, Louise submitted payment requests to Meemic for the attendant-care services she and her husband provided, asserting that they provided full-time supervision; Meemic routinely paid the benefits. In 2013, Meemic investigated Richard and Louise’s supervision of Justin, and discovered Justin had been periodically jailed for traffic and drug offenses and had spent time at an inpatient substance-abuse rehabilitation facility at times when Richard and Louise stated they were providing full-time supervision. The underlying policy contained an antifraud provision stating that the policy was void if any insured person intentionally concealed or misrepresented any material fact or circumstance relating to the insurance, the application for it, or any claim made under it. Louise and Richard counterclaimed, arguing that Meemic breached the insurance contract by terminating Justin’s benefits and refusing to pay for attendant-care services. Meemic moved for summary judgment, and the trial court initially denied the motion, reasoning that under the innocent-third-party rule, Meemic could not rescind the policy on the basis of fraud to avoid liability for benefits owed to Justin, an innocent third party. Meemic moved for reconsideration of that decision after the Court of Appeals later concluded in Bazzi v. Sentinel Ins. Co., 315 Mich App 763 (2016), the innocent-third-party rule was no longer good law. On reconsideration, the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Meemic. Louise and Richard appealed. The Court of Appeals reversed, first reasoning that Bazzi did not apply because the fraud in this case did not occur in the procurement of the policy and did not affect the validity of the contract. The court concluded, however, that the policy’s antifraud provision was invalid because it would enable Meemic to avoid the payment of personal protection insurance (PIP) benefits mandated by MCL 500.3105. The Michigan Supreme Court affirmed, holding that contractual provisions like the one asserted by Meemic, in the context of the mandate of the no-fault act, are valid when based on a defense to mandatory coverage provided in the no-fault act itself or on a common-law defense that has not been abrogated by the act. Because Meemic’s fraud defense was grounded on neither the no-fault act nor the common law, it was invalid and unenforceable. Accordingly, the Court of Appeals was affirmed on different grounds, and the case remanded to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Meemic Ins. Co. v. Fortson" on Justia Law

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Water users and property owners in Flint, Michigan (plaintiffs) brought a class action at the Court of Claims against defendants Governor Rick Snyder, the state of Michigan, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (the MDEQ), and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (collectively, the state defendants) and against defendants Darnell Earley and Jerry Ambrose (the city defendants). Plaintiffs alleged the Governor and these officials had knowledge of a 2011 study commissioned by Flint officials that cautioned against the use of Flint River water as a source of drinking water. In 2014, under the direction of Earley and the MDEQ, Flint switched its water source from the Detroit Water and Sewage Department (DWSD) to the Flint River. Less than a month after the switch, state officials began to receive complaints from Flint water users about the quality of the water coming out of their taps. Plaintiffs alleged state officials failed to take any significant remedial measures to address the growing health threat and instead continued to downplay the health risk, advising Flint water users that it was safe to drink the tap water while simultaneously arranging for state employees in Flint to drink water from water coolers installed in state buildings. The state and city defendants separately moved for summary disposition on all four counts, arguing that plaintiffs had failed to satisfy the statutory notice requirements in MCL 600.6431 of the Court of Claims Act, failed to allege facts to establish a constitutional violation for which a judicially inferred damages remedy was appropriate, and failed to allege facts to establish the elements of any of their claims. The Court of Claims granted defendants’ motions for summary disposition on plaintiffs’ causes of action under the state-created-danger doctrine and the Fair and Just Treatment Clause of the 1963 Michigan Constitution, art 1, section 17, after concluding that neither cause of action was cognizable under Michigan law. However, the Court of Claims denied summary disposition on all of defendants’ remaining grounds, concluding that plaintiffs satisfied the statutory notice requirements and adequately pleaded claims of inverse condemnation and a violation of their right to bodily integrity. The Court of Appeals affirmed the Court of Claims. After hearing oral argument on defendants’ applications, a majority of the Michigan Supreme Court expressly affirmed the Court of Appeals’ conclusion regarding plaintiffs’ inverse-condemnation claim. The Court of Appeals opinion was otherwise affirmed by equal division. View "Mays v. Snyder" on Justia Law

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Keith Wood was convicted by jury of jury tampering, for having distributed a pamphlet promoting the concept of jury nullification outside the courthouse at which the pretrial hearing of a man named Andrew Yoder was scheduled to begin. The pamphlet asserted that jurors could vote their conscience, that jurors could not be forced to obey a juror oath, and that a juror had the right to hang a jury if he or she did not agree with other jurors. Defendant handed the pamphlet to two women who told him that they had been summoned to the court for jury selection. The case against Yoder never went to trial because Yoder entered into a plea agreement. After being charged in district court with obstruction of justice, and jury tampering, defendant moved to dismiss both charges, arguing with regard to the jury-tampering charge that the term “juror” in MCL 750.120a(1) did not include people who were summoned for jury duty but never selected or sworn. The district court dismissed the obstruction charge, but denied the motion to dismiss the tampering charge. The circuit court and Court of Appeals affirmed the district court. The Michigan Supreme Court reversed, finding that individuals who were merely summoned for jury duty and have not yet participated in a case were not jurors for purposes of MCL 750.120a(1). Therefore, defendant did not attempt to influence the decision of any “juror” as that term was used in MCL 750.120a(1). View "Michigan v. Wood" on Justia Law

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Progress Michigan filed a complaint against then Attorney General Bill Schuette in his official capacity, alleging that defendant violated the Michigan Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), and failed to preserve state records under the Management and Budget Act. Plaintiff sought certain e-mail messages between Attorney General Schuette and his staff that were sent using personal e-mail accounts. Defendant denied the request on October 19, 2016, and on November 26, 2016, defendant denied plaintiff’s subsequent departmental appeal of that decision. Seeking to compel disclosure, plaintiff filed its complaint in the Court of Claims. Defendant moved for summary judgment, arguing that dismissal was appropriate because plaintiff failed to comply with the signature and verification requirement of MCL 600.6431 of the Court of Claims Act. Plaintiff amended its complaint which contained allegations identical to those in the original complaint, but was also signed by plaintiff’s executive director and sworn to before the Ingham County Clerk. Defendant again moved for summary judgment, this time arguing that the amended complaint was untimely because it was filed outside FOIA’s 180-day period of limitations. The Court of Claims dismissed plaintiff’s Management and Budget Act claim but denied the summary-judgment motion with respect to defendant’s FOIA claim, holding that plaintiff had complied with the MCL 600.6431 signature and verification requirement and that the complaint was timely filed within that statute’s one-year limitations period. The Court concluded that the amended complaint complied with FOIA’s statute of limitations because the amendment related back to the filing of the original complaint, which had been timely filed. The Court of Appeals reversed, reasoning that the Michigan Supreme Court’s decision in Scarsella v. Pollak, 607 NW2d 711 (2000), rendered plaintiff’s initial complaint a nullity, such that it could not be amended, and that the statutory period of limitations elapsed before the second complaint was filed. The Supreme Court reversed the appellate court, finding Scarsella did not apply in this context, and plaintiff complied with the statutory requirements necessary to sustain its claim under the FOIA. View "Progress Michigan v. Schuette" on Justia Law

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Susan Bisio sued the City of the Village of Clarkston for allegedly violating the Michigan Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Bisio filed a FOIA request with Clarkston seeking documents related to city business, including correspondence between Clarkston’s city attorney and a consulting firm concerning a development project and vacant property in the city. Clarkston denied Bisio’s request with regard to certain documents in the city attorney’s file. The city attorney, a private attorney who contracted with the city to serve as its city attorney, claimed that the requested documents were not “public records” as defined by MCL 15.232(i). The city attorney reasoned that he was not a “public body,” as defined by MCL 15.232(h), and because the requested documents were never in the possession of the city, which was a public body, the requested documents were not public records subject to a FOIA request. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Clarkston, concluding that the documents at issue were not public records because there was no evidence to show that Clarkston had used or retained them in the performance of an official function or that the city attorney had shared the documents with Clarkston to assist the city in making any decisions. The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court, finding the city attorney was merely an agent of Clarkston and the definition of “public body” in MCL 15.232(h) did not encompass an agent of a public body. After its review, the Michigan Supreme Court reversed, finding the documents at issue did satisfy the statutory definition of "public records." View "Bisio v. City of the Village of Clarkson" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Davontae Sanford filed suit against the state of Michigan, seeking compensation under the Wrongful Imprisonment Compensation Act (WICA). Another man confessed to the crimes committed in 2007 to which plaintiff had pled guilty when he was 15 years old: four counts of second-degree murder and carrying a firearm during the commission of a felony. In 2008, plaintiff was sentenced to concurrent terms of 37 to 90 years in prison for the murder convictions, plus a consecutive two-year term for the felony-firearm conviction, with credit for the 198 days he spent in the Wayne County Juvenile Detention Facility. After an investigation into the other man’s confession and with the stipulation of the prosecutor, the circuit court vacated plaintiff’s convictions and sentences on June 6, 2016, and plaintiff was released from the Michigan Department of Corrections June 8, 2016. Defendant admitted that plaintiff was entitled to $408,356.16 in compensation for the 8 years and 61 days he spent in a state correctional facility pursuant to the WICA’s damages formula set forth in MCL 691.1755(2)(a), but defendant disputed whether plaintiff was entitled to $27,124.02 in compensation for the 198 days he spent in local detention. The Court of Claims held that the time plaintiff spent in local detention was not compensable under the WICA, and it awarded plaintiff $408,356.16. Plaintiff appealed as of right, and the Court of Appeals affirmed. The Michigan Supreme Court concurred with the appellate court that the WICA did not authorize compensation for the time plaintiff spent in detention before he was wrongfully convicted of a crime, and affirmed that court's judgment. View "Sanford. v. Michigan" on Justia Law

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Defendant-appellee Derek Smith was convicted by jury on two counts of assault with intent to do great bodily harm (AWIGBH); three counts of assault with a dangerous weapon (felonious assault); one count of possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony; one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm; and two counts of misdemeanor assault and battery. Defendant appealed in the Court of Appeals, which affirmed his convictions but remanded to the trial court for resentencing on the basis that two offense variables had been incorrectly scored. Upon reconsideration, the Court of Appeals found no merit to defendant's argument the trial court erred by having imposed the felony-firearm sentence to run consecutively with the AWIGBH sentences when the jury had not explicitly found that he possessed a firearm during the commission of the AWIGBH offenses. The appellate court ultimately ordered resentencing, finding the felony-firearm sentence could not be imposed to run consecutively with the AWIGBH sentences. The Court of Appeals remanded the case to the trial court for it to determine whether felonious assault or felon-in-possession was the predicate felony for the felony-firearm conviction and to amend Smith’s judgment of sentence so that the felony-firearm sentence was consecutive only with the predicate offense. The prosecutor appealed that decision to the Michigan Supreme Court. Finding no reversible error, the Michigan Supreme Court affirmed, finding the Court of Appeals appropriately remanded the case to the trial court to impose the two-year felony-firearm sentence to run consecutively with a single felony sentence. View "Michigan v. Smith" on Justia Law

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Rafaeli, LLC, and Andre Ohanessian brought an action against Oakland County, Michigan, and its treasurer, Andrew Meisner, alleging due-process and equal-protection violations as well as an unconstitutional taking of their properties. Rafaeli owed $8.41 in unpaid property taxes from 2011, which grew to $285.81 after interest, penalties, and fees. Defendants foreclosed on Rafaeli’s property for the delinquency, sold the property at public auction for $24,500, and retained all the sale proceeds in excess of the taxes, interest, penalties, and fees. Ohanessian owed approximately $6,000 in unpaid taxes, interest, penalties, and fees from 2011. Like Rafaeli’s property, defendants foreclosed on Ohanessian’s property for the delinquency, sold his property at auction for $82,000, and retained all the proceeds in excess of Ohanessian’s tax debt. Plaintiffs specifically alleged that defendants, by selling plaintiffs’ real properties in satisfaction of their tax debts and retaining the surplus proceeds from the tax-foreclosure sale of their properties, had taken their properties without just compensation in violation of the Takings Clauses of the federal and Michigan Constitutions. The circuit court granted summary disposition to defendants, finding that defendants did not “take” plaintiffs’ properties because plaintiffs forfeited all interests they held in their properties when they failed to pay the taxes due on the properties. The court determined that property properly forfeited under the General Property Tax Act (GPTA), MCL 211.1 et seq., and in accordance with due process is not a “taking” barred by either the United States or Michigan Constitution. In an unpublished per curiam opinion, the Court of Appeals affirmed. The Michigan Supreme Court reversed, finding that defendants’ retention of those surplus proceeds was an unconstitutional taking without just compensation under Article 10, section 2 of the Michigan 1963 Constitution. View "Rafaeli, LLC v. Oakland County" on Justia Law

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While conducting a probation compliance check on defendant John D. Vanderpool’s house, a probation agent found heroin. Defendant admitted that the heroin belonged to him. A few weeks later, defendant was arrested and was again found in possession of heroin. He was charged with two counts of possession with intent to deliver heroin and with violating probation. Defendant moved to suppress evidence from the compliance check, arguing that the search was illegal because he was not on probation at the time of the search, but the circuit court denied the motion. Defendant pleaded no contest to having violated probation and to having possessed less than 25 grams of a controlled substance, second offense. Defendant appealed, arguing that because he was not on probation when his home was searched, the search was unlawful. The Michigan Supreme Court agree: while the circuit court attempted to extend defendant’s probation before the compliance check, because the term of probation had already expired, the court did not have the authority to extend it. Consequently, the warrantless search of defendant’s home was not justified. View "Michigan v. Vanderpool" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Skanska USA Building Inc. served as the construction manager on a renovation project for Mid-Michigan Medical Center–Midland (the Medical Center); plaintiff subcontracted the heating and cooling portion of the project to defendant M.A.P. Mechanical Contractors, Inc. (MAP). MAP obtained a commercial general liability insurance policy (the CGL policy) from defendant Amerisure Insurance Company (Amerisure). Plaintiff and the Medical Center were additional named insureds on the CGL policy. In 2009, MAP installed a steam boiler and related piping for the Medical Center’s heating system. MAP’s installation included several expansion joints. Sometime between December 2011 and February 2012, plaintiff determined that MAP had installed some of the expansion joints backward. Significant damage to concrete, steel, and the heating system occurred as a result. The Medical Center sent a demand letter to plaintiff, asserting that it had to pay for all costs of repair and replacement. Plaintiff sent a demand letter to MAP, asserting that MAP was responsible for all costs of repair and replacement. Plaintiff repaired and replaced the damaged property, at a cost of $1.4 million. Plaintiff then submitted a claim to Amerisure, seeking coverage as an insured. Amerisure denied the claim. The issue this case presented for the Michigan Supreme Court's review centered on whether the unintentional faulty subcontractor work that damaged an insured’s work product constituted an “accident” under a commercial general liability insurance policy. Because the Court concluded the answer was yes, it reversed the Court of Appeals’ judgment to the contrary. View "Skanska USA Building, Inc. v. M.A.P. Mechanical Contractors, Inc." on Justia Law