Articles Posted in Civil Procedure

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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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Defendants, the Ann Arbor and Clio school districts, each had a policy banning firearms on school property. The plaintiffs, advocacy organizations supporting gun ownership and certain parents of children who attend school in the defendant districts, believed state law preempted these policies by implication. The Michigan Supreme Court found that while the Legislature plainly could preempt school districts from adopting policies like the ones at issue if it chose to, it did not do so here: "not only has our Legislature not preempted school districts’ regulation of guns by implication, it has expressed its intent not to preempt such regulation." View "Michigan Gun Owners, Inc. v. Ann Arbor Public Schools" on Justia Law

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AK Steel operated a steel mill within the Ford Rouge Manufacturing complex in Dearborn, Michigan. The steel mill was subject to air pollution control and permitting requirements under the federal Clean Air Act, and the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act (NREPA). South Dearborn Environmental Improvement Association, Inc. (South Dearborn) and several other environmental groups petitioned for judicial review of a decision of the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to issue a permit to install (PTI) for an existing source under NREPA. In 2006, the DEQ issued Severstal Dearborn, LLC (the mill's prior owner) a PTI that authorized the rebuilding of a blast furnace and the installation of three air pollution control devices at the steel mill. In the years that followed, the permit was revised twice; each successive permit modified and replaced the preceding permit. Emissions testing performed in 2008 and 2009 revealed that several emission sources at the steel mill exceeded the level permitted. The DEQ sent Severstal a notice of violation, and after extended negotiations, they entered into an agreement, pursuant to which Severstal submitted an application for PTI 182- 05C, the PTI at issue in this case. The DEQ issued the permit on May 12, 2014, stating that the purpose of PTI 182-05C was to correct inaccurate assumptions about preexisting and projected emissions and to reallocate emissions among certain pollution sources covered by the PTI. On July 10, 2014, 59 days after PTI 182-05C was issued, South Dearborn and several other environmental groups appealed the DEQ’s decision in the circuit court. The issue for the Michigan Supreme Court's review reduced to how long an interested party has to file a petition for judicial review of a DEQ decision to issue a permit for an existing source of air pollution. The Supreme Court held MCL 324.5505(8) and MCL 324.5506(14) provided that such a petition must be filed within 90 days of the DEQ’s final permit action. Therefore, the circuit court correctly denied AK Steel Corporation’s motion to dismiss pursuant to MCR 2.116(C)(1) because the petition for judicial review was timely filed 59 days after the final permit action in this case. View "South Dearborn Environmental Improvement Assn. v. Dept. of Env. Quality" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Ali Bazzi, was injured while driving a vehicle owned by his mother, third-party defendant Hala Baydoun Bazzi, and insured by defendant Sentinel Insurance Company (Sentinel). Plaintiff sued Sentinel for mandatory personal protection insurance (PIP) benefits under Michigan’s no-fault act, and Sentinel sought and obtained a default judgment rescinding the insurance policy on the basis of fraud. The issue this case presented for the Michigan Supreme Court was whether the judicially created innocent-third-party rule, which precludes an insurer from rescinding an insurance policy procured through fraud when there is a claim involving an innocent third party, survived its decision in Titan Ins Co v. Hyten, 817 NW2d 562 (2012), which abrogated the judicially created easily-ascertainable-fraud rule. The Supreme Court held "Titan" abrogated the innocent-third-party rule but that the Court of Appeals erred when it concluded that Sentinel was automatically entitled to rescission in this instance. Accordingly, the Court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded to the trial court to consider whether, in its discretion, rescission was an available remedy. View "Bazzi v. Sentinel Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff David McQueer brought a negligence action against his employer, Perfect Fence Company, to recover damages after he was injured on the job. Perfect Fence moved for summary judgment on the ground that the exclusive-remedy provision of the Worker’s Disability Compensation Act (WDCA), MCL 418.101 et seq., barred plaintiff’s action. Plaintiff responded that his action was not barred because defendant had violated MCL 418.611 by failing to procure workers’ compensation coverage for him and had violated MCL 418.171 by encouraging him to pose as a nonemployee. Plaintiff additionally moved to amend his complaint to add claims of intentional tort and breach of an employment contract. Plaintiff argued that the evidence raised a question of fact about whether defendant intended to injure him in a way that brought plaintiff’s claim within the scope of the intentional tort exception to the exclusive-remedy provision of the WDCA. The trial court granted Perfect Fence’s motion, concluding that the company had not violated MCL 418.611 because defendant had provided workers’ compensation coverage. The court also ruled that MCL 418.171 was not applicable to plaintiff’s claims. The court denied plaintiff’s motion to amend his complaint, concluding that amendment would be futile because the undisputed facts did not demonstrate that defendant intended to injure plaintiff. Plaintiff appealed. The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment and denial of plaintiff’s motion to amend his complaint in an unpublished per curiam opinion. The panel agreed with the trial court that defendant had not violated MCL 418.611, but concluded that plaintiff had established a question of fact regarding whether defendant had improperly encouraged him to pose as a contractor for the purpose of evading liability under WDCA in violation of MCL 418.171(4). The panel also concluded that because plaintiff had presented sufficient evidence to create a question of fact regarding whether an intentional tort had occurred, the trial court abused its discretion by not allowing plaintiff to amend his complaint. The Michigan Supreme Court held MCL 418.171 did not apply in this case: because plaintiff was not the employee of a contractor engaged by defendant, he had no cause of action under MCL 418.171. For this reason, the Court reversed the Court of Appeals judgment only as to whether MCL 418.171 applied. View "McQueer v. Perfect Fence Company" on Justia Law

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At issue before the Michigan Supreme Court in this case was whether the rebuttable presumption of undue influence was applicable when the decedent’s attorney breaches Michigan Rule of Professional Conduct (MRPC) 1.8(c), which generally prohibited an attorney from preparing an instrument giving the attorney or his or her close family a substantial gift. Appellants argued that a breach of MRPC 1.8(c) automatically rendered an instrument void, while the appellee attorney argued that, rather than an invalidation of the instrument, a rebuttable presumption of undue influence arose in these circumstances. After considering the applicable provisions of the Estates and Protected Individuals Code (EPIC), MCL 700.1101 et seq., and the underlying principles of probate law, the Michigan Supreme Court determined a rebuttable presumption applied to these circumstances. "[T]he adoption of MRPC 1.8(c) has no effect on this conclusion because a breach of this rule, like breaches of other professional conduct rules, only triggers the invocation of the attorney disciplinary process; it does not breach the statutory law of EPIC." View "In re Mardigian Estate" on Justia Law

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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