Court of Appeals clarifies that not all false accusations of criminal behavior will constitute defamation per se

Despite a series of inconsistent opinions throughout the years, in Lakin v Rund, No. 323695, the Court of Appeals adhered to Taylor v Kneeland, 1 Doug 67, 72 (1843), in clarifying what types of crimes were actionable in a defamation per se action.  The Court concluded that a false accusation of simple battery would only constitute defamation per se if the crime of battery subjects a plaintiff to an “infamous punishment,” which the Court concluded it did not. Read More

Crime victims generally have no right to intervene in claims brought by the State Treasurer under the State Correctional Facility Reimbursement Act, says the Court of Appeals

In State Treasurer v. Bences, No. 327657, the Court of Appeals held that a crime victim’s restitution order does not create a perfected interest in a claim under the State Correctional Facility Reimbursement Act (“SCFRA”).  Because the restitution order does not take priority over the Treasury’s SCFRA claim, the victim cannot intervene in the suit. Read More

COA: “replacement” senior mortgage does not retain priority in quiet-title action to the extent loan amount is increased

When a senior mortgage is discharged and replaced with a new mortgage, and the junior mortgagee conditions its own discharge and replacement on no new money being lent and recordation of the replacement mortgage, then the new senior mortgage does not retain its priority position with respect to the excess, said the Michigan Court of Appeals in Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. v. SBC IV REO, LLC and Capital National Bank, No. 328186. The court refused to apply the doctrine of equitable subrogation, which in a quiet-title action places a new mortgage in the same priority as the discharged mortgage if the identity of the mortgagee remains the same and the junior lienholders are not prejudiced, to the amount over and above the loan amount secured by the original senior mortgage. Read More

COA reinforces publication requirement for slander of title claim and holds that deed restrictions recorded outside the chain of title cannot impact a property interest

In Petersen Financial LLC v. Twin Creeks, Nos. 329019 and 329622, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court orders in favor of defendants on plaintiff’s claim for slander of title and tortious interference with business expectancy (No 329019); and in favor of plaintiff regarding quiet title, specifically, that certain deed restrictions do not apply to their property (No. 329622).   Read More

COA holds that filling activities on owner’s wetland are not considered farming activities for purposes of NREPA

In Department Of Environmental Quality v. Hernan F Gomez, No. 328033, the Court of Appeals held that the Defendants’ filling activities on their wetland property were prohibited and were not considered farming activities.  Accordingly,  because Defendants did not acquire a permit prior to filling in a wetland area, they violated the National Resources and Environmental Protection Act (NREPA). 
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COA holds that a custom-furnishings carpenter is liable for use tax as construction contractor

A company in the business of producing and installing custom office furnishings and interior finishes is a contractor liable for use tax, and not a retailer liable only for sales tax, said the Michigan Court of Appeals in Brunt Associates, Inc. v. Department of Treasury, No. 328253. Further, it is not an industrial processor entitled to an exemption under the Use Tax Act (UTA). Ultimately such a company affixes its product to real estate for its customers, no matter how unobtrusive the hardware used to attach its products is or how easily those products may be removed.
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PIP benefits are available to injured parties in lawful possession of another’s vehicle, whose owner knew such injured party's use of the vehicle would be unlawful

Personal insurance protection (PIP) benefits under the Michigan No-Fault Act, MCL 500.3101 et. seq., may be recovered by a party injured in a motor vehicle accident, who had the owner’s permission to take the vehicle even though the owner knew that such party’s use of the vehicle would be unlawful. Read More

COA determines that a government agency can be liable for injury allegedly caused by failure to maintain a road

The Government Tort Liability Act’s (“GTLA”) immunity provision does not shield a government agency from suit for economic damages when a person sustains bodily injury due to the agency’s failure to properly maintain a highway, the Michigan Court of Appeals held in Estate of Matthey Michael Denney v Kent County Road Commission, No. 328135Read More

Sixth Amendment is not violated where court relies on judicial fact-finding to impose consecutive sentencing, says COA

The Sixth Amendment, in conjunction with the Due Process Clause, requires that each element of a crime be proved to the jury beyond a reasonable doubt, but that requirement does not apply to the consecutive sentencing statute, according to People v Deleon, No. 329031.  MCL 750.520b(3) allows a term of imprisonment imposed for first-degree criminal sexual conduct to be “served consecutively to any term of imprisonment imposed for any other criminal offense arising from the same transaction.”  In Deleon, the trial judge found that the defendant’s criminal sexual conduct convictions (CSC I and CSC II) both arose from the same transaction and therefore imposed consecutive sentencing.  The court of appeals held that this did not violate the Sixth Amendment right to trial by jury. Read More

COA holds that no signature is required in a will if clear and convincing evidence establishes decedent intended the document to constitute his or her will

In Re Attia Estate, No. 327925, the Court of Appeals held the probate court erred by concluding that an unsigned will cannot be admitted to probate as a matter of law. The sole issue presented on appeal was whether a decedent must sign a will in order for that will to be admitted to probate. Read More
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