In the recent case of In re Conservatorship of DPV, Docket No 362139 (Mich Ct App July 27, 2023), the court explores when a court — here the probate court — can sanction a party for a “frivolous” filing.
MCL 600.2591(3)(a) defines a “frivolous” action as meeting “at least 1 of the following conditions”:
(i) The party's primary purpose in initiating the action or asserting the defense was to harass, embarrass, or injure the prevailing party.
(ii) The party had no reasonable basis to believe that the facts underlying that party's legal position were in fact true.
(iii) The party's legal position was devoid of arguable legal merit.
In re Conservatorship of DPV involved a hotly contested and lengthy court battle over who should be the guardian and conservator over DPV — competing family members or a professional appointed by the court. To the family’s disappointment, the court appointed a professional guardian and conservator. The professional conservator handled a real estate transaction that involved real estate owned by DPV, and the conservator filed an annual accounting that addressed the real estate transaction. After the annual accounting was approved, family members discovered an error by the conservator relating to the real estate transaction and filed an action seeking to hold the conservator responsible for this error. Ultimately, the family’s filing resulted in the probate court holding the family members in contempt of court, grounded in a finding that the family’s filing regarding the real estate was frivolous. In reversing, the Michigan Court of Appeals held that the family’s “intentions were not to harass, embarrass, or injure” the professional conservator, but the family “naturally and reasonably wanted proper management of their loved one’s assets.”
If you have questions about a probate dispute or matter, please contact Laura Morris at firstname.lastname@example.org or 616.752.2407.