Opinion Date: 07/03/2012
Issues: Whether a purchaser at a sheriff's sale has the same rights as the "mortgagee" under MCL 600.3241a; Statutory interpretation; Klooster v. City of Charlevoix; Dimmitt & Owens Fin., Inc. v. Deloitte & Touche (ISC), LLC; Defining terms undefined in the statute; MCL 8.3a; Brackett v. Focus Hope, Inc.; Defining "mortgagee"; Presumption that the Legislature is familiar with the rules of statutory construction; In re Messer Trust
Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (Unpublished)
Case Name: Leggio v. Huffer
e-Journal Number: 52104
Judge(s): Per Curiam – Servitto, Cavanagh, and Fort Hood
Rejecting the defendants' argument that the term "mortgagee" as used in MCL 600.3241a should be defined to include third parties who purchase foreclosed properties at sheriff sales, the court held that the trial court properly denied their summary disposition motion, and affirmed the trial court's order granting the plaintiff's cross-motion for summary disposition. The relevant facts were not in dispute. Plaintiff defaulted on a mortgage she had with a non-party mortgage company, which began a foreclosure action that resulted in the property being sold to defendant-Huffer at the sheriff's sale on 4/2/10. The sheriff's deed was recorded and indicated that the property may be redeemed by 10/2/10. Huffer later went to the property and surmised that it appeared abandoned. He then advised his agent, defendant-Roberts, to proceed with the necessary actions required to shorten the redemption period. Roberts went to the property and posted a notice of presumptive abandonment and apparently mailed a copy to plaintiff's last known address, which was the foreclosed property. An affidavit of abandonment was apparently recorded with the register of deeds on 7/23/10, which indicated that the redemption period was shortened to 30 days from the date of the sheriff's sale (which was allegedly 6/3/10) pursuant to MCL 600.3241a. Defendants failed to respond to plaintiff's three requests for payoff information to redeem the property. She then filed this action, alleging in relevant part that the affidavit of abandonment failed to comply with MCL 600.3241a and thus, was null and void because neither defendant was the "mortgagee." She requested declaratory relief in that regard and that defendants be required to provide the precise redemption information. The trial court agreed with plaintiff, holding that MCL 600.3241a plainly states that only the "mortgagee" is permitted to take measures to reduce the redemption period due to abandonment and the statutory language had to be enforced as written. Defendants argued on appeal that the trial court erred in granting plaintiff summary disposition because a purchaser at a sheriff's sale "stands in the shoes of the mortgagee" and thus, has the same rights as the mortgagee under MCL 600.3241a. The court disagreed. "The term 'mortgagee' is not defined in MCL 600.3241a, but there can be no reasonable doubt that the plain and ordinary meaning of the term is that it refers to the holder of a mortgage on the property that was subject to the foreclosure proceeding and not the holder of a sheriff's deed." The court noted that the Legislature is presumed to be familiar with the rules of statutory construction, and the consequences of its use of specific statutory language. The Legislature was clearly aware of the foreclosure proceeding process, including that sheriff sales are a part of that process, yet it choose to use the specific term "mortgagee" as to the rights afforded by MCL 600.3241a. The court declined "defendants' invitation to re-write the plain and unambiguous language so as to grant those same rights to third-party sheriff sale purchasers."
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