Articles Posted in Michigan Supreme Court

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In consolidated cases, two municipalities sought to provide electric service through municipal electric utilities. Central to both cases was the applicability Michigan Administrative Code Rule 411 (sometimes referred to as a utility’s right to first entitlement). Rule 460.3411 (Rule 411) was inapplicable when a municipal utility is involved and has not consented to the jurisdiction of the Michigan Public Service Commission (PSC). Additionally, under the circumstances of each case, the Michigan Supreme Court found there was not a customer already receiving service from another utility; accordingly, MCL 124.3 did not prevent either plaintiff from providing electric service. View "City of Holland v. Consumers Energy Co." on Justia Law

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The Tax Tribunal erred by concluding that MCL 211.7n, a statute specifically exempting from taxation the real or personal property owned and occupied by nonprofit educational institutions, controlled over the more general statute, MCL 211.9(1)(a), which authorized a tax exemption for educational institutions without regard to the institution’s nonprofit or for-profit status. SBC Health Midwest, Inc., challenged the city of Kentwood’s denial of its request for a personal property tax exemption in the Tax Tribunal. SBC Health, a Delaware for-profit corporation, had requested a tax exemption under MCL 211.9(1)(a) for personal property used to operate the Sanford-Brown College Grand Rapids. The Michigan Supreme Court held the nonprofit requirement in MCL 211.7n did not negate a for-profit educational institution like SBC Health from pursuing an exemption under MCL 211.9(1)(a). The tax exemption outlined in the unambiguous language in MCL 211.9(1)(a) applies to all educational institutions, for-profit or nonprofit, that meet the requirements specified in MCL 211.9(1)(a). View "SBC Health Midwest, Inc. v. City of Kentwood" on Justia Law

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Helen Yono brought an action in the Court of Claims against the Department of Transportation, seeking damages for injuries sustained when she stepped into a depression in a parallel-parking space and fell. The Department moved for summary judgment under MCR 2.116(C)(7), claiming that it was entitled to governmental immunity. The Department acknowledged its duty, set forth in MCL 691.1402(1), to maintain the “improved portion of” M-22 that was “designed for vehicular travel,” but argued that Yono’s injury had not occurred on that portion of the highway because the parking lane was not designed for vehicular travel. Plaintiff countered that the entire roadbed, from one curb to the other, was designed for vehicular travel. The trial court denied the Department's motion, and a divided Court of Appeals affirmed. The majority observed that “the highway - including that portion designated for parallel parking - is a contiguous whole; the portion where parallel parking is permitted is not physically separated from the center of the highway by a median, driveway, or other barrier.” Guided by precedent and by the admonition to narrowly construe exceptions to governmental immunity, the Supreme Court concluded the parallel-parking lane, designated exclusively as such by painted lines on the highway, was not “designed for vehicular travel” within the meaning of the highway exception. Accordingly, the Court reversed the Court of Appeals, which held otherwise, and remanded for entry of summary judgment on behalf of the Department. View "Yono v. Dept. of Transportation" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was walking on a sidewalk in defendant city when she was injured after tripping on a 2.5-inch vertical discontinuity between adjacent sidewalk slabs. She sued defendant, alleging inter alia that the sidewalk’s hazardous condition had existed for more than 30 days before her fall. However, in her deposition, she stated that she did not know for how long the discontinuity had existed. The only relevant evidence she submitted was three photographs of the defect taken by plaintiff’s husband about 30 days after the accident. Defendant moved for summary disposition pursuant to MCR 2.116(C)(7), (C)(8), and (C)(10). The trial court found plaintiff’s photographs insufficient to establish the defect’s origin and duration and granted summary disposition without specifying under which rule it had granted the motion. On appeal, the Court of Appeals noted that the trial court had reviewed material outside of the pleadings and therefore concluded that the trial court could not have granted summary disposition under MCR 2.116(C)(8). The issue this case presented for the Michigan Supreme Court's resolution was whether for purposes of the “highway exception” to governmental immunity from tort claims, MCL 691.1402, plaintiff’s photographs of a sidewalk defect taken about 30 days after plaintiff’s accident were sufficient evidence to establish a genuine issue of material fact regarding whether the defect existed at least 30 days before the accident. The Court concluded that such evidence alone was not probative of a sidewalk’s past condition and was thus insufficient, without more, to avoid summary judgment. Consequently the Court reversed the Court of Appeals judgment and reinstated the trial court’s dismissal of plaintiff’s action. View "Bernardoni v. City of Saginaw" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Barbara Kozak alleged she was injured while crossing Kings Highway in Lincoln Park when she tripped over a three-inch elevation differential between the two slabs of concrete that met at the centerline of the street. Kozak and her husband filed suit against defendant, the city of Lincoln Park, pursuant to the “highway exception,” alleging that defendant failed to “maintain the highway in reasonable repair so that it is reasonably safe and convenient for public travel.” Defendant moved for summary disposition under MCR 2.116(C)(7) (governmental immunity) and (C)(10) (no genuine issue of material fact). The trial court granted defendant’s motion, and the Court of Appeals, in a divided unpublished opinion, affirmed, concluding that plaintiffs did not provide evidence to counter defendant’s assertions that the road was reasonably safe and convenient for public travel. Because the Supreme Court concluded that plaintiffs presented sufficient evidence to avoid summary judgment, it reversed the judgment of the Court of Appeals and remanded this case back to the circuit court for further proceedings. View "Kozak v. City of Lincoln Park" on Justia Law

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Defendant city of Lansing enacted an ordinance requiring contractors working on city construction contracts to pay employees a prevailing wage. Plaintiff Associated Builders and Contractors, a trade association, filed suit against Lansing, arguing that the ordinance was unconstitutional because municipalities did not have the authority to adopt laws regulating the wages paid by third parties, even where the relevant work is done on municipal contracts paid for with municipal funds. The Court of Appeals majority disagreed, and ruled that subsequent changes to state law had caused the controlling caselaw precedent, Attorney General ex rel Lennane v Detroit, to be “superseded.” The Supreme Court reversed, finding that the Court of Appeals erred by exceeding its powers for refusing to follow a decision from the Michigan Supreme Court that both applied and had not been overruled. Even so, the Supreme Court took the opportunity to overrule Lennane because subsequent constitutional changes "undercut its viability." The Court therefore vacated the Court of Appeals’ decision but affirmed the result. View "Associated Builders & Contractors v. City of Lansing" on Justia Law

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International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) brought an action in the Court of Claims against the Department of Treasury to challenge the department's ruling that IBM was not entitled to apportion its business income tax base and modified gross receipts tax base using a three-factor apportionment formula provided in the Multistate Tax Compact (MCL 205.581 et seq.) and was instead required to apportion its income using the sales-factor formula in the Business Tax Act (MCL 208.1101 et seq.) when calculating its state taxes for 2008. IBM moved for summary judgment under MCR 2.116(C)(10), and the department moved for summary judgment under MCR 2.116(I)(2). After a hearing, the Court of Claims denied IBM's motion and granted the department's motion, holding that the BTA mandated the use of the sales-factor apportionment formula. The Court of Appeals affirmed in an unpublished opinion per curiam. After review, the Supreme Court concluded that IBM was entitled to use the Compact's three-factor apportionment formula for its 2008 Michigan taxes and that the Court of Appeals erred by holding otherwise on the basis of its erroneous conclusion that the Legislature had repealed the Compact's election provision by implication when it enacted the BTA. Furthermore, the Court held that IBM could use the Compact's apportionment formula for that portion of its tax base subject to the modified gross receipts tax of the BTA. View "International Business Machines Corp. v. Dept. of Treasury" on Justia Law

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This case began as a dispute between the parties regarding whether plaintiff owed tax under the now-repealed Single Business Tax Act (SBTA) related to plaintiff's contributions to its Voluntary Employees' Beneficiary Association (VEBA) trust fund for 1997 through 2001. In this case, the issue for the Supreme Court to decide was what actions a taxpayer must take under MCL 205.30 of the Revenue Act to trigger the accrual of interest on a tax refund. The Court held that in order to trigger the accrual of interest, the plain language of the statute requires a taxpayer to: (1) pay the disputed tax; (2) make a “claim” or "petition" for a refund; and (3) "file" the claim or petition. "Although a "claim" or "petition" need not take any specific form, it must clearly demand, request, or assert a right to a refund of tax payments made to the Department of Treasury that the taxpayer asserts are not due. Additionally, in order to "file" the claim or petition, a taxpayer must submit the claim to the Treasury in a manner sufficient to provide the Treasury with adequate notice of the taxpayer’s claim." View "Ford Motor Co. v. Dept. of Treasury" on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented to the Supreme Court was whether a trial court's failure to provide the appellant-surety notice within seven days of defendant's failure to appear barred forfeiture of the bail bond posted by the surety. Relying on "In re Forfeiture of Bail Bond (Michigan v Moore)" (740 NW2d 734 (2007)), the Court of Appeals held that a court’s failure to comply with the seven-day notice provision of MCL 765.28(1) did not bar forfeiture of a bail bond posted by a surety. Because the Supreme Court concluded that Moore was wrongly decided, it held that a court’s failure to comply with the seven-day notice provision of MCL 765.28(1) did bar forfeiture of a bail bond posted by a surety: "[w]hen a statute provides that a public officer 'shall' undertake some action within a specified period of time, and that period of time is provided to safeguard another’s rights or the public interest, as with the statute at issue here, it is mandatory that such action be undertaken within the specified period of time, and noncompliant public officers are prohibited from proceeding as if they had complied with the statute." View "In re Forfeiture of Bail Bond (Michigan v. Gaston)" on Justia Law

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The Judicial Tenure Commission (JTC) filed a formal complaint against Wayne Circuit Court Judge Bruce Morrow, alleging 10 counts of judicial misconduct that arose out of criminal cases over which he had presided. After hearing argument on objections to the master’s report, a majority of the JTC concluded that the evidence established judicial misconduct in eight of the ten allegations and recommended that respondent be suspended for 90 days without pay. After review of the entire record and due consideration of the parties’ arguments, the Supreme Court agreed with the JTC’s conclusion that respondent committed judicial misconduct, but the Court was not persuaded that the recommended sanction was appropriate in this case. Instead, the Court held that a 60-day suspension without pay was proportionate to the body of judicial misconduct established by the record. View "In re Hon. Bruce Morrow" on Justia Law