Opinion Date: 05/15/2012
Issues: Motion to enter a consent judgment; "Subject-matter jurisdiction"; Township of Elba v. Gratiot Cnty. Drain Comm'r; Addressing issues not raised by the parties on appeal; Mayberry v. General Orthopedics, PC; Bezeau v. Palace Sports & Entm't, Inc.; MCL 600.8301(1); Chapter 57 of the Revised Judicature Act (RJA)(MCL 600.5701 et seq.); MCL 600.8302(1) and (3); Bruwer v. Oaks; Altman v. Nelson; In re Hatcher; Schafer v. Knuth; Dresselhouse v. Chrysler Corp.; Whether defendants could properly "collaterally attack" the entry of the agreed-upon judgment; Bowie v. Arder; Jackson City Bank & Trust v. Fredrick; Local No. 93 Int'l Ass'n of Firefighters, AFL-CIO CLC v. Cleveland; Goldberg v. Trustees of Elmwood Cemetery; Whether the defendants could harbor the alleged error as an "appellate parachute"; Whether plaintiff may enforce the consent judgment according to its terms; Zimmer v. Schindehette; Applicability of Brooks v. Mammo
Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (Published)
Case Name: Clohset v. No Name Corp.
e-Journal Number: 51646
Judge(s): Boonstra, K.F. Kelly, and Wilder
The court, inter alia, held that the district court had subject-matter jurisdiction over the case, and that its entry of a stipulated consent judgment was proper, without regard to the jurisdictional amount-in-controversy limit that applies under the district court's general jurisdictional authority. Also, having neither appealed nor properly moved to alter or amend the stipulated consent judgment, defendants could not collaterally attack it, under the circumstances, 10 years later. The court held that the district court erred in transferring this case to the circuit court. Further, given the jurisdiction of the district court, the court held that the circuit court erred in ruling on the merits of the case, in dismissing plaintiff's claims, and in granting summary disposition to defendants on plaintiff's claims. Thus, the court vacated the judgment of the circuit court denying the plaintiff's motion for summary disposition and granting summary disposition in favor of defendants and remanded to the district court for reinstatement and enforcement of the stipulated consent judgment entered on 10/1/99. The court noted that its conclusion was derived in part from the well-established maxim that "a party may not properly create error in a lower court, and then claim on appeal that the error requires reversal." The Clohsets and defendant-No Name entered into a lease agreement for commercial premises in 1991, to which defendants-Geraldine Goodman and Walter Goodman obligated themselves as guarantors. No Name later failed to make its rental payments. The Clohsets filed a demand for possession upon No Name in district court on 10/6/98, demanding possession of the premises. On 10/21/98, they filed a complaint against No Name for nonpayment of rent, seeking possession of the premises and costs, but not seeking money damages, which the complaint acknowledged would exceed the district court's general statutory jurisdictional limit of $25,000.The Clohsets entered into a settlement agreement with No Name, Geraldine, and Walter, stating in part that No Name owed the Clohsets $384,822.95, plus 9.5% interest. The settlement agreement also required the parties to execute "pocket" consent judgments for entry, potentially, in the district court and/or the circuit court. The consent judgments were to be held by the Clohsets, and one or both were to be filed in the event that defendants defaulted on the settlement agreement. Over nine years passed, during which time the Clohsets and Walter passed away, and then on 3/24/09, plaintiff sent Geraldine a demand letter for $222,102.09. Defendants stipulated to a renewal of the consent judgment and the district court entered the stipulated renewal of consent judgment on 9/15/09. On 10/14/09, defendants moved to vacate the original, 10/1/99, consent judgment on the ground that the district court had lacked subject-matter jurisdiction to enter it. The court held that because "subject-matter jurisdiction is determined by reference to the pleadings, and because the complaint filed by the Clohsets in district court invoked the district court's specific jurisdiction under § 8302(3) and Chapter 57 of the RJA, that specific jurisdiction takes precedence over the more general jurisdictional grant found in § 8301(1)," which was inapplicable here. Thus, the district court had jurisdiction over this case. "Having properly acquired jurisdiction, the district court was obliged to render a final decision on the merits." The court held that consistent with Bruwer, and with its authority and obligation to render a judgment on a matter properly before it, "the district court's specific jurisdiction over this case extended to the entry of a stipulated consent judgment presented by the parties, even though that consent judgment included an agreed-upon monetary component that, if it had been premised upon the district court's general jurisdiction, would have exceeded the otherwise applicable statutory jurisdictional limit." Thus, the district court erred in granting plaintiff's motion to transfer the case to the circuit court.
Full Text Opinion