Wills & Trusts

This summary also appears under Family Law

 

Issues: Conversion; Aroma Wines & Equip., Inc. v. Columbia Distrib. Servs., Inc.; Lawsuit Fin., LLC v. Curry; Check Reporting Servs., Inc. v. Michigan Nat'l Bank-Lansing; Ownership of funds placed in a trust pursuant to the Michigan Uniform Transfer to Minors Act (UTMA)(MCL 554.521 et seq.); People v. Couzens; A parent's duty to support a minor child; Manley v. Detroit Auto. Inter-Ins. Exch.; Wayne Cnty. Prosecutor v. Recorder's Court Judge; Tax implications of gifts to minors; Watling v. Watling; Garriss Inv. Corp. v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue (TC); Right result reached for the wrong reason; Gleason v. Michigan Dep't of Transp.; Treble damages; MCL 600.2919a(1); Alken-Ziegler, Inc. v. Hague; Whether a demand is necessary for the return of wrongfully converted money; Trail Clinic, PC v. Bloch; Gum v. Fitzgerald; Responsibility for securing transcripts; MCR 7.109(B)(1)(a); MCR 7.210(B)(1)(a); Failure to provide transcripts; People v. Dunigan; PT Today, Inc. v. Commissioner of Fin. & Ins. Servs.

Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (Published)

Case Name: Hoffenblum v. Hoffenblum

e-Journal Number: 58598

Judge(s): Wilder, Fitzgerald, and Owens

 

The court held that the circuit court did not err by finding that the defendant-father wrongfully exerted dominion over the plaintiffs-children's trust money or by declining to award treble damages, but did err by finding that plaintiffs were required to demand the return of their money. Thus, it affirmed the portion of the circuit court's order reversing the portion of the district court's decision that defendant did not wrongfully exert dominion over the money in the accounts, reversed the portion of the circuit court's order affirming the district court's ruling as to plaintiffs' demand for the return of the money, affirmed the portion of the circuit court order as to treble damages, and remanded to the district court for entry of a judgment for plaintiffs. Plaintiffs claimed defendant wrongfully converted money from their trust accounts by withdrawing $18,305.43 to reimburse himself for their medical bills. The district court entered a judgment of no cause of action, finding plaintiffs failed to prove the elements of their conversion claim. The circuit court reversed the district court's finding, ruling that the amount withdrawn from the trust accounts did not benefit plaintiffs because they had already received the benefit of the medical services. It also reversed the district court's ruling that scienter was required, and remanded for reconsideration of the district court's finding that plaintiffs never asked for the money to be returned in light of defendant's ex-wife's (W) testimony. On remand, the district court reaffirmed its original decision, and this time the circuit court affirmed the district court. On appeal, the court rejected defendant's argument that the circuit court erred by finding that he wrongfully exerted dominion over plaintiffs' money, and by reversing the district court's finding that he properly withdrew the money to reimburse himself for medical expenses. "Because defendant, [W], or both . . . were obligated to pay for plaintiffs' out-of-network medical expenses, and the district court found that defendant used the UTMA money to reimburse himself for those expenses, we conclude that the reimbursement substituted or took the place of an obligation of a person to support the minor, contrary to MCL 554.539(3). Defendant therefore wrongfully exerted dominion over plaintiffs' UTMA money, and the circuit court properly reversed the district court's finding that defendant properly withdrew the money to reimburse himself for medical expenses." The court agreed with plaintiffs that the circuit court erred by affirming the district court's finding that they failed to demand the return of their money because, as a matter of law, no demand was required. It noted that defendant "intentionally withdrew the money" and then used it to pay his attorney. However, it found that the ruling as to treble damages was within the range of principled outcomes. Finally, the court rejected defendant's argument that it should dismiss plaintiffs' entire appeal under MCR 7.109(B)(1)(a) because they failed to provide transcripts for two hearings. While they failed to provide a transcript, "it is unclear from the register of actions whether any proceedings occurred on the record that day."

 

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