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A Better Partnership
January 23, 2017

COA holds that MCR 2.116(I) permits courts to grant summary disposition on the pleadings, but a court must still afford litigants due process

In Lamkin v Hamburg Township No. 328836, the Court of Appeals ruled that a trial court’s adjudication authority under MCR 2.116(I) to render summary disposition on the pleadings sua sponte cannot be exercised in a way that violates basic due process.
 
Plaintiff filed a complaint in circuit court, alleging that Defendant unlawfully failed to pursue a zoning-violation action against one of Plaintiff’s neighbors. Six days later—before even the complaint was served—the circuit court dismissed the case under MCR 2.116(C)(5) holding that Plaintiff lacked legal capacity to sue because she did not allege special damages in her complaint, and under MCR 2.116(I), which permits a court to render summary disposition on the pleadings.
 
The Court of Appeals, citing Al Maliki v LaGrant, 286 Mich App 483, 489; 781 NW2d 853 (2009) noted a court’s authority under MCR 2.116(I) to grant summary disposition sua sponte on the pleadings; however, the court may not do so in contravention of a party’s due process rights.  Here, the trial court had failed to give Plaintiff notice that it was contemplating summary disposition.  This violated Plaintiff’s due process rights.  Accordingly, the Court of Appeals reversed.  The Court further noted that the trial court dismissed the case so quickly that there was, in fact, no record to review.
 
In his concurring opinion, Judge O’Connell echoed Judge Gleicher in the lower court’s failure to establish a record.  Judge Ronyane Krause concurred in part and dissented in part.  While she agreed that the trial court did deprive the Plaintiff of her due process rights, she believed due process could be afforded through a post-judgment rehearing.
 

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