Articles Posted in Michigan Supreme Court

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Defendant Samer Shami was charged with violating the Tobacco Products Tax Act (TPTA) for possessing, acquiring, transporting, or offering for sale tobacco products with an aggregate wholesale price of $250 or more as a manufacturer without a license in violation of MCL 205.423(1) and MCL 205.428(3). Defendant was the manager of Sam Molasses, a retail tobacco store owned by Sam Molasses, LLC. Investigation revealed that the labels on several plastics tubs of tobacco in the store’s inventory did not match those listed on the invoices from tobacco distributors. Defendant explained that he had mixed two or more flavors of tobacco to create a new “special blend,” which was then placed in the plastic tubs and relabeled. Defendant also explained that he repackaged bulk tobacco from a particular distributor by taking the packets of tobacco out of the boxes, inserting them into metal tins, and placing his own label on the tins, which were then sold at the store. The issue presented in this case for the Michigan Supreme Court's review was whether an individual who combined two different tobacco products to create a new blended product or repackages bulk tobacco into smaller containers with a new label was considered to be a manufacturer of a tobacco product and must have the requisite license. The Court of Appeals held that, in either instance, such a person was a manufacturer. According to that Court, manufacturing simply requires a change from the original state of an object or material into a state that makes it more suitable for its intended use, and a person who changes either the form or delivery method of tobacco constitutes a manufacturer for purposes of the TPTA. Although the Supreme Court agreed with the Court of Appeals’ conclusion that an individual combining two different tobacco products to create a blended product, relabeling that new mixture, and making it available for sale to the public is a manufacturer of a tobacco product, the Court disagreed with the Court of Appeals that merely repackaging bulk tobacco into smaller containers renders an individual a manufacturer under the TPTA. Therefore, the Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the Court of Appeals. This case was remanded to the Circuit Court for further proceedings. View "Michigan v. Shami" on Justia Law

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Defendant Samer Shami was charged with violating the Tobacco Products Tax Act (TPTA) for possessing, acquiring, transporting, or offering for sale tobacco products with an aggregate wholesale price of $250 or more as a manufacturer without a license in violation of MCL 205.423(1) and MCL 205.428(3). Defendant was the manager of Sam Molasses, a retail tobacco store owned by Sam Molasses, LLC. Investigation revealed that the labels on several plastics tubs of tobacco in the store’s inventory did not match those listed on the invoices from tobacco distributors. Defendant explained that he had mixed two or more flavors of tobacco to create a new “special blend,” which was then placed in the plastic tubs and relabeled. Defendant also explained that he repackaged bulk tobacco from a particular distributor by taking the packets of tobacco out of the boxes, inserting them into metal tins, and placing his own label on the tins, which were then sold at the store. The issue presented in this case for the Michigan Supreme Court's review was whether an individual who combined two different tobacco products to create a new blended product or repackages bulk tobacco into smaller containers with a new label was considered to be a manufacturer of a tobacco product and must have the requisite license. The Court of Appeals held that, in either instance, such a person was a manufacturer. According to that Court, manufacturing simply requires a change from the original state of an object or material into a state that makes it more suitable for its intended use, and a person who changes either the form or delivery method of tobacco constitutes a manufacturer for purposes of the TPTA. Although the Supreme Court agreed with the Court of Appeals’ conclusion that an individual combining two different tobacco products to create a blended product, relabeling that new mixture, and making it available for sale to the public is a manufacturer of a tobacco product, the Court disagreed with the Court of Appeals that merely repackaging bulk tobacco into smaller containers renders an individual a manufacturer under the TPTA. Therefore, the Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the Court of Appeals. This case was remanded to the Circuit Court for further proceedings. View "Michigan v. Shami" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Marlette Auto Wash, LLC claimed it had an easement through a parking lot owned by defendant Van Dyke SC Properties, LLC, for customers to access a car wash that plaintiff had purchased in 2007. Defendant counterclaimed, seeking to quiet title and obtain monetary damages for expenses relating to maintenance of the lot. The parties’ parcels were originally owned as a single unimproved tract of land; in 1988, land was to B & J Investment Company, which was owned in part by James Zyrowski, and split into two parcels. B & J opened a car wash on the corner parcel in 1989. Although the car wash was initially accessible from both the highway and the street, car wash customers generally used the parking lot of the adjoining parcel to get to and from the car wash. This adjoining parcel was sold to Marlette Development Corporation in 1988, which opened a shopping center in 1990. When Marlette Development’s deed was recorded, no easement was reserved for the benefit of the car wash property, and car wash customers continued to use the parking lot for access. In 2000, the village of Marlette closed the street entrance to the car wash. Car wash customers continued to use the parking lot for access without incident until Marlette Development sold its property to defendant in 2013. At this point, defendant’s sole owner, James Zyrowski informed plaintiff that unless it contributed money to maintain the parking lot, Zyrowski would close off access to the car wash through the parking lot. Plaintiff claimed a prescriptive easement for ingress and egress over defendant’s property on the basis of plaintiff’s open, notorious, adverse, and continuous use of that property for at least 15 years. The question presented for the Michigan Supreme Court was whether such use created a prescriptive easement that was appurtenant, without regard to whether the previous owner of the dominant estate took legal action to claim the easement. The answer to that inquiry is yes; the Supreme Court determined the Court of Appeals erred by requiring plaintiff to establish privity of estate with the previous owner, regardless of whether plaintiff could establish that the elements of a prescriptive easement were satisfactorily met by that prior owner. Moreover, the Court of Appeals erred by holding that the previous owner of the dominant estate must have taken legal action to claim the prescriptive easement in order for plaintiff to prove that a prescriptive easement had vested during the preceding property owner’s tenure. “Title by adverse possession is gained when the period of limitations expires, not when legal action quieting title to the property is brought.” View "Marlette Auto Wash, LLC v. Van Dyke SC Properties, LLC" on Justia Law

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MCL 450.4515(1)(e) provided alternative statutes of limitations: one based on the time of discovery of the cause of action and the other based on the time of accrual of the cause of action. Plaintiffs were former employees of defendant ePrize who acquired ownership units in the company. Plaintiffs alleged founder Jeff Linkner orally promised them that their interests in ePrize would never be diluted or subordinated. In its fifth operating agreement, executed in 2009, ePrize stock issued in Series C and Series B Units carried distribution priority over the common units held by plaintiffs. The Operating Agreement further provided that if the company were ever sold, Series C Units would receive the first $68.25 million of any available distribution. In 2012, ePrize sold substantially all of its assets and, pursuant to the Operating Agreement, distributed nearly $100 million in net proceeds to the holders of Series C and Series B Units. Plaintiffs received nothing for their common shares. Plaintiffs thereafter sued, bringing claims for LLC member oppression, breach of contract, and breach of fiduciary duty. The trial court granted defendants’ motion for summary judgment, concluding that the three-year limitation period in MCL 450.4515(1)(e) constituted a statute of limitations, rather than a statute of repose, and that plaintiffs' claims accrued in 2009. The Court of Appeals disagreed, finding plaintiffs’ claims did not accrue until 2012, when ePrize sold substantially all of its assets, because until that sale plaintiffs had not incurred a calculable financial injury and any damage claim before that time would have been “speculative.” Accordingly, the Court concluded that plaintiffs’ claims were timely filed before the expiration of the three-year limitation period. The Michigan Supreme Court agreed with the trial court's reasoning: plaintiffs’ actions for damages under MCL 450.4515(1)(e) were barred by the three-year statute of limitations unless plaintiffs could establish on remand that they were entitled to tolling. View "Frank v. Linkner" on Justia Law

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In 2007, plaintiff Innovation Ventures, LLC engaged defendants Andrew Krause and K & L Development of Michigan (K & L Development) to design, manufacture, and install manufacturing and packaging equipment for the production of "5-Hour ENERGY" at Liquid Manufacturing’s bottling plant. The issue this case presented for the Michigan Supreme Court's review centered on whether agreements between sophisticated businesses were void for failure of consideration and whether the noncompete provisions in these agreements were reasonable. Innovation Ventures alleged a variety of tort and breach of contract claims against Liquid Manufacturing, LLC, K & L Development of Michigan, LLC, Eternal Energy, LLC, LXR Biotech, LLC, Peter Paisley, and Andrew Krause based on the defendants’ production of Eternal Energy and other energy drinks. Contrary to the determination of the Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court concluded that the parties’ Equipment Manufacturing and Installation Agreement (EMI) and Nondisclosure Agreement were not void for failure of consideration. The Court nevertheless affirmed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment to defendants for the claims against Krause, because there was no genuine issue of material fact on the question whether Krause breached the EMI or the Nondisclosure Agreement. Likewise, there was no issue on the question whether K & L Development breached the EMI. The Court concluded the Court of Appeals erred in failing to evaluate the noncompete provision in the parties’ Termination Agreement for reasonableness. The Court therefore reversed in part, affirmed in part, and remanded for consideration of those questions of fact remaining regarding whether K & L Development breached the Nondisclosure Agreement and whether Liquid Manufacturing breached the Termination Agreement with respect to its production of products other than Eternal Energy. View "Innovation Ventures, LLC v. Liquid Manufacturing, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Isabella County Prosecuting Attorney filed a complaint for a temporary restraining order, a show-cause order, a preliminary injunction, and a permanent injunction, seeking to enjoin the operation of Compassionate Apothecary, LLC (CA), a medical-marijuana dispensary that was owned and operated by Brandon McQueen and Matthew Taylor. McQueen was a registered qualifying patient and a registered primary caregiver for three qualifying patients under the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act (MMMA). Taylor was the registered primary caregiver for two qualifying patients. They operated CA as a membership organization. The prosecuting attorney alleged that McQueen and Taylor’s operation of CA did not comply with the MMMA, was contrary to the Public Health Code (PHC), and, thus, was a public nuisance. The court denied the prosecuting attorney’s requests for a temporary restraining order, a show-cause order and injunction, concluding that the operation of CA was in compliance with the MMMA because the patient-to-patient transfers of marijuana that CA facilitated fell within the act’s definition of the “medical use” of marijuana. The prosecuting attorney appealed. The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded, concluding that defendants’ operation of CA was an enjoinable public nuisance because the operation of CA violated the PHC, which prohibits the possession and delivery of marijuana. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded that the Court of Appeals reached the correct result because the act does not permit a registered qualifying patient to transfer marijuana for another registered qualifying patient’s medical use. Accordingly, the prosecuting attorney was entitled to injunctive relief to enjoin the operation of defendants’ business because it constituted a public nuisance. View "Michigan v. McQueen" on Justia Law

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Marcy Hill, Patricia Hill, and Christopher Hill brought an action against Sears, Roebuck & Co., Sears Logistic Services, Inc., Merchant Delivery, Inc., Exel Direct, Inc., Mark Pritchard, Timothy Dameron, and others, seeking to recover damages for injuries and property damage incurred when Marcy Hill released natural gas through an uncapped gas line and plaintiffs’ home burned down following Patricia Hill’s attempt to light a candle. Defendants were prior owners of the home and the parties who sold, delivered, and installed an electric washer and dryer purchased by Marcy Hill in 2003. Hill’s mother had directed the installers to place the washer and dryer in the same location where the prior owners’ gas dryer had been situated. The prior owners had turned off the gas to the line supplying their dryer, but had not capped off the line when they moved, taking their dryer with them. In 2007, four years after the electric dryer’s installation, during which time it had functioned without incident, Hill inadvertently opened the valve on the gas line. Marcy and Patricia Hill smelled gas throughout the day but did not act on this information, despite both women’s knowledge that the smell of natural gas required safety precautions. Plaintiffs’ home exploded that night when Patricia Hill attempted to light the candle with a lighter. Plaintiffs asserted that the installers had negligently installed the dryer and failed to discover, properly inspect, cap, and warn plaintiffs about the uncapped gas line. The court denied the retailers’, delivery companies’, and installers’ motions for summary judgment. The installers, Mark Pritchard and Timothy Dameron, appealed. The Court of Appeals affirmed. The retailers, delivery companies, and the installers filed separate applications for leave to appeal. Upon review of the matter, the Supreme Court concluded that the delivery and installation of the washer and dryer did not create a new dangerous condition with respect to the uncapped gas line or make an existing dangerous condition more hazardous. The hazard associated with the uncapped gas line was present when the installers entered the premises and when they left; the danger posed by the uncapped gas line was the same before and after the installation. Any liability of the retailers or the delivery companies would have resulted from their agency relationship with the installers. The circuit court erred by denying the summary judgment motions. The case was reversed and remanded for entry of an order granting defendants summary judgment. View "Hill v. Sears, Roebuck & Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Cedroni Associates, Inc. was the lowest bidder on a public contract. The issue before the Supreme Court was whether Plaintiff had a valid business expectancy for the purpose of sustaining a claim of tortious interference with business expectancy. The trial court held that Plaintiff did not have such an expectancy, but a divided appellate court held that a genuine issue of material fact existed in that regard. Because the Supreme Court agreed with the trial court and the Court of Appeals dissent that Plaintiff did not have a valid business expectancy, the Supreme Court reversed the appellate court's judgment and reinstated the trial court's order granting Defendant's motion for summary judgment. View "Cedroni Associates, Inc. v. Tomblinson, Harburn Associates, Architects & Planners, Inc." on Justia Law

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The issue before the Supreme Court in this case was whether a limitations period applied to an action for breach of a construction contract. The Court of Appeals held that the limitations period applied in this case, and that the statute's six-year limit expired before Plaintiff Miller-Davis Company filed its complaint. The appellate court reversed the judgment of the trial court that had awarded Plaintiff damages. Plaintiff argued on appeal to the Supreme Court that a different statute of limitations for breach of contract controlled, and the period prescribed by that statute was the applicable statute for this action. Upon review of the two statutes of limitations, the Supreme Court agreed with Plaintiff. The limitation in both statutes is six years, however, the period runs from "the date the claim first accrued." The Court reversed the appellate court's judgment because there was a question about the date Plaintiff's action accrued. The Court remanded the case for further proceedings.

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At issue in this case was whether the trial court abused its discretion when it concluded that Defendants Richco Construction, Inc. (Richco) and Ronald Richards, Jr. were personally notified of the default judgment against them and denied their motion to set aside that judgment. The suit arose from a contractual relationship between Plaintiff Lawrence M. Clarke, Inc. (Clarke) and Defendant. Clarke worked on a residential subdivision in 2003, and hired Richco as a subcontractor to work on the sewer system. Richco's work did not satisfy the local governing municipality, and after efforts to repair were unfruitful, Clarke contracted with another party to finish the work. Clark filed a breach of contract and fraud complaint against Richco. The process server attempted to serve Richco at its business address on file with the state, but Richco had vacated the premises and left no forwarding address. Clarke continued in its efforts to locate Richco and refiled its complaint. The trial court permitted alternative service through mailing notice to last-known addresses and a classified advertisement in the local paper. With no response, Clarke moved for a default judgment that the court granted. Upon review of the trial court record, the Supreme Court found that the trial court abused its discretion by finding that Richco was personally notified, and that Richco was entitled to relief from the default judgment. The Court reversed and remanded the case back to the trial court for further proceedings.