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One Court of Justice Blog

Sep 2017
September 25, 2017

Is a wife who did not physically live with her husband a surviving spouse? The MSC will decide.

In In re Estate of Erwin, No. 153980 and No. 153981, the Michigan Supreme Court has granted leave to appeal the questions of (1) whether the “willfully absent” provision in the Estates and Protected Individuals Code ("EPIC") is defined exclusively by physical separation, or whether it includes consideration of the emotional bonds and connections between spouses; and (2) whether EPIC requires proof that a spouse intends to abandon his or her marital rights. 

Sep 2017
September 13, 2017

COA: A vehicle only became uninsured upon a court's ruling of no coverage

In Wagner v. Farm Bureau Mut. Ins. Co., No 332400, the Court of Appeals addressed the applicability of uninsured motorist coverage.  A party injured in a rear-end automobile accident brought a claim against the other driver.  That other driver's insurer, Farm Bureau, filed a declaratory judgment action seeking a determination that there was no coverage and a court eventually awarded summary judgment.  The injured party sought first-party uninsured motorist coverage from her own insurer, which also happened to be Farm Bureau.  Farm Bureau denied the claim on the grounds that the policy required a claim be filed within three years of the accident, and the injured party did not file her claim within that time.  The trial court and Court of Appeals disagreed, finding that the policy was ambiguous given its contradictory language requiring a claim to be brought within three years, but also requiring proof of the uninsured status of the other involved vehicle.  Here, as coverage for the other vehicle was contested, there was no evidence establishing that the vehicle was uninsured until the judgment was entered in the declaratory judgment action - which was entered more than three years after the accident.  Thus the provision requiring the uninsured motorist claim be brought within three years was ambiguous, and the insurer was not entitled to summary disposition.   

Aug 2017
August 23, 2017

COA: Unjust Enrichment claim is not barred by governmental tort immunity

The case of Genesee Cnty. Drain Comm'r v. Genesee County, No. 331023 has reached the Court of Appeals for the second time.  Our description of the facts of the case and the Court's initial holding regarding governmental immunity can be found here.  This time, the case returns to the Court on another discreet question regarding the scope of governmental immunity:  is a claim for unjust enrichment a claim alleging tort liability that is barred by the GTLA?  The Court concluded that it was not a tort claim, and thus not barred.  Specifically, the Court reasoned that a claim for unjust enrichment was based on an equitable doctrine to impose contract liability, and not tort liability.  

Aug 2017
August 23, 2017

COA: Court order for physical transfer of a child from a parent constitutes removal triggering the protections of the Michigan Indian Family Preservation Act

In In re Detmer/Beaudry, No. 336348, the Court considered the custody situation of a mother and two minor children that were eligible for membership in the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, and thus subject to the protections of the Michigan Indian Family Preservation Act (MIFPA).  In particular, the mother alleged that the children had been placed with the non-respondent father without trial court findings regarding remedial services or risk of harm, as required by the MIFPA.  During the pendancy of the appeal, the case became moot as the children were returned to the mother's custody.  Nevertheless, because the issue had public significance, was likely to recur, and would avoid judicial review because of the nature of temporary placements, the Court decided to rule on the case even though it was moot.  In doing so, the Court found that the MIFPA required particular findings from the trial court before a child could be "removed" from parental custody.  Although the MIFPA did not define the word "removed," and the Court concluded that a court order physically transferring placement of the child constitutes removal and triggers the MIFPA protections, but that a voluntary placement of a child is not a removal, and the protections do not apply in that situation.   

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