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A Better Partnership
March 16, 2017

COA: In a bifurcated class action suit, a court may dismiss a class action suit by contemporaneously incorporating notice of the dismissal into a general notice of the action

Under certain factual scenarios, a court may dismiss a class action suit by providing notice of the dismissal contemporaneously with the general notice of the nature of the action and the various rights of the class members.
In Nowacki v Department of Corrections, No. 330255, the plaintiff, a class of employees alleging sexual discrimination, moved for voluntary dismissal of its equitable claims in the Court of Chancery, so as to expedite proceedings in circuit court as to the class’ legal claims. Procedurally, defendant had bifurcated the suit, removing the equitable and declaratory claims to the Court of Claims, and leaving the legal claims within the jurisdiction of the circuit court. Following plaintiff’s motion for voluntary dismissal to the equitable and declaratory claims, defendant objected arguing that the notice requirements under MCR 3.501(C) and MCR 3.501(E) cannot occur simultaneously because MCR 3.51(E) contemplates the class as having received prior notice of a proposed order for dismissal.
The Court of Appeals examined the Court of Chancery’s voluntary dismissal for abuse of discretion and found that because nothing expressly precludes dismissal under MCR 3.501(E) when notice under MCR 3.501(C) has not been provided, it was in the trial court’s discretion and within the interests of “judicial economy and efficiency” to do so. Furthermore, the Court of Appeals noted that the courts must have the flexibility and latitude to manage the cases before them when exercising their “inherent powers” within the spirit of the Court Rules, as practicable and appropriate to the situation. See Brenner v Kolk, 226 Mich App 149, 157-160; 573 NW2d 65 (1997). Ultimately, since the defendant had caused the bifurcation of the court proceedings in the first place, limiting options for both the defendant and plaintiff, judicial resources were better utilized by issuing one notice versus two.

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