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Providing summaries of opinions as they are released from the Michigan Supreme Court, Michigan Court of Appeals (published & unpublished), and selected U.S. Sixth Circuit. Over 60,000 cases summarized to date.

 

 

Case Summary

Includes summaries of one Michigan Supreme Court order under Municipal/Real Property and two Michigan Court of Appeals published opinions under Civil Rights/Employment & Labor Law and Insurance/Litigation.


Cases appear under the following practice areas:

  • Civil Rights (1)

    Full Text Opinion

    This summary also appears under Employment & Labor Law

    e-Journal #: 73952
    Case: White v. Department of Transp.
    Court: Michigan Court of Appeals ( Published Opinion )
    Judges: Shapiro and Ronayne Krause; Concurring in part, Dissenting in part – Riordan
    Issues:

    Employment discrimination; Failure to promote as a result of racial discrimination in violation of the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act (ELCRA); MCL 37.2202(1)(a); Disparate treatment; Wilcoxon v. Minnesota Mining & Mfg. Co.; Duranceau v. Alpena Power Co.; Intentional discrimination under the McDonnell Douglas (McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green) burden-shifting framework; Hazle v. Ford Motor Co.; Actual decisionmaker; Chattman v. Toho Tenax Am., Inc. (6th Cir.); The use of statistics to prove intentional or disparate discrimination; Dixon v. WW Grainger, Inc.; Featherly v. Teledyne Indus., Inc.; Title VII of the Civil Rights Act; DeFlaviss v. Lord & Taylor, Inc.; McCalla v. Ellis; Peeples v. Detroit (6th Cir.); Retaliation; MCL 37.2701(a); Burlington N. & Santa Fe Ry. Co. v. White; Pena v. Ingham Cnty. Rd. Comm’n; White v. Burlington N. & Santa Fe Ry. Co. (6th Cir.); The reasonable-employee standard; Whether the needs-improvement evaluation, the corresponding performance improvement plan (PIP), & the “workplace transfer could dissuade a reasonable employee from making or supporting a claim of discrimination”

    Summary:

    The court held that plaintiff failed “to establish a material question of fact whether defendant’s legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the promotion decision was a pretext.” Having never addressed in a published ELCRA case whether to follow Burlington, the court did so here and adopted “the reasonable-employee standard for determining whether an employer has committed a retaliatory adverse employment action under ELCRA. Given that the antiretaliation provision does not contain the limiting language used in the substantive discrimination provision, there is no basis in MCL 37.2701(a) to limit retaliatory acts under ELCRA to those affecting the terms and conditions of employment such as pay, hiring and firing.” It held that the adoption of Burlington “is also consistent with our long history of applying persuasive Title VII precedent to analogous ELCRA issues absent statutory differences.” Also, it held that “the needs-improvement evaluation, the corresponding PIP and the workplace transfer could dissuade a reasonable employee from making or supporting a claim of discrimination under ELCRA.” Thus, whether she suffered an adverse employment action was a question for the jury, and the trial court erred by granting summary disposition. The court affirmed dismissal of plaintiff’s failure-to-promote discrimination claim, but reversed dismissal of her retaliation case and remanded. Plaintiff (an African American) brought a claim of employment discrimination against defendant alleging that she had been denied a promotion as a result of racial discrimination in violation of ELCRA. Defendant took certain actions that she concluded were in retaliation for having sued. Thus, she amended her complaint to include retaliation. Plaintiff argued on appeal that “she established a question of fact whether defendant’s stated reason for the promotion decision was a pretext for discrimination.” Defendant’s nondiscriminatory reason was that C (a Caucasian) was the best candidate for the position. Plaintiff did not establish a material question of fact whether the “legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the promotion decision was a pretext. Defendant properly relied on the Civil Service Commission’s determination that [C] was qualified for the sought position. Plaintiff’s subjective opinion that she was more qualified for the position does not by itself create a triable question of fact. The promotion decision was unanimously made by the interview panel and any alleged discrepancy regarding the hiring process is immaterial. Plaintiff’s statistical evidence is not sufficiently probative without additional context and analysis.”

    Full Text Opinion

  • Employment & Labor Law (1)

    Full Text Opinion

    This summary also appears under Civil Rights

    e-Journal #: 73952
    Case: White v. Department of Transp.
    Court: Michigan Court of Appeals ( Published Opinion )
    Judges: Shapiro and Ronayne Krause; Concurring in part, Dissenting in part – Riordan
    Issues:

    Employment discrimination; Failure to promote as a result of racial discrimination in violation of the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act (ELCRA); MCL 37.2202(1)(a); Disparate treatment; Wilcoxon v. Minnesota Mining & Mfg. Co.; Duranceau v. Alpena Power Co.; Intentional discrimination under the McDonnell Douglas (McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green) burden-shifting framework; Hazle v. Ford Motor Co.; Actual decisionmaker; Chattman v. Toho Tenax Am., Inc. (6th Cir.); The use of statistics to prove intentional or disparate discrimination; Dixon v. WW Grainger, Inc.; Featherly v. Teledyne Indus., Inc.; Title VII of the Civil Rights Act; DeFlaviss v. Lord & Taylor, Inc.; McCalla v. Ellis; Peeples v. Detroit (6th Cir.); Retaliation; MCL 37.2701(a); Burlington N. & Santa Fe Ry. Co. v. White; Pena v. Ingham Cnty. Rd. Comm’n; White v. Burlington N. & Santa Fe Ry. Co. (6th Cir.); The reasonable-employee standard; Whether the needs-improvement evaluation, the corresponding performance improvement plan (PIP), & the “workplace transfer could dissuade a reasonable employee from making or supporting a claim of discrimination”

    Summary:

    The court held that plaintiff failed “to establish a material question of fact whether defendant’s legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the promotion decision was a pretext.” Having never addressed in a published ELCRA case whether to follow Burlington, the court did so here and adopted “the reasonable-employee standard for determining whether an employer has committed a retaliatory adverse employment action under ELCRA. Given that the antiretaliation provision does not contain the limiting language used in the substantive discrimination provision, there is no basis in MCL 37.2701(a) to limit retaliatory acts under ELCRA to those affecting the terms and conditions of employment such as pay, hiring and firing.” It held that the adoption of Burlington “is also consistent with our long history of applying persuasive Title VII precedent to analogous ELCRA issues absent statutory differences.” Also, it held that “the needs-improvement evaluation, the corresponding PIP and the workplace transfer could dissuade a reasonable employee from making or supporting a claim of discrimination under ELCRA.” Thus, whether she suffered an adverse employment action was a question for the jury, and the trial court erred by granting summary disposition. The court affirmed dismissal of plaintiff’s failure-to-promote discrimination claim, but reversed dismissal of her retaliation case and remanded. Plaintiff (an African American) brought a claim of employment discrimination against defendant alleging that she had been denied a promotion as a result of racial discrimination in violation of ELCRA. Defendant took certain actions that she concluded were in retaliation for having sued. Thus, she amended her complaint to include retaliation. Plaintiff argued on appeal that “she established a question of fact whether defendant’s stated reason for the promotion decision was a pretext for discrimination.” Defendant’s nondiscriminatory reason was that C (a Caucasian) was the best candidate for the position. Plaintiff did not establish a material question of fact whether the “legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the promotion decision was a pretext. Defendant properly relied on the Civil Service Commission’s determination that [C] was qualified for the sought position. Plaintiff’s subjective opinion that she was more qualified for the position does not by itself create a triable question of fact. The promotion decision was unanimously made by the interview panel and any alleged discrepancy regarding the hiring process is immaterial. Plaintiff’s statistical evidence is not sufficiently probative without additional context and analysis.”

    Full Text Opinion

  • Insurance (1)

    Full Text Opinion

    This summary also appears under Litigation

    e-Journal #: 73951
    Case: Komendat v. Gifford
    Court: Michigan Court of Appeals ( Published Opinion )
    Judges: Per Curiam – Beckering, Fort Hood, and Shapiro
    Issues:

    Action seeking uninsured motorist (UM) & personal protection insurance (PIP) benefits under the No-Fault Act; Expert testimony; Personal knowledge; MRE 602; Citizens Nat’l Bank of Cheboygan v. Mayes; Refreshing a witness’s memory; Genna v. Jackson; Objections to a witness’s competency; MCR 2.308(C)(3)(a); Objection that counsel failed to lay a proper foundation for questions asked; Moore v. Lederle Labs.; Preservation of evidence; Brenner v. Kolk; Spoliation instruction; M Civ JI 6.01; Pugno v. Blue Harvest Farms LLC; Determining no-fault attorney fees; MCL 500.3148(1); MRPC 1.5(a); Pirgu v. United Servs. Auto. Ass’n; Proudfoot v. State Farm Mut. Ins. Co.; Moore v. Secura Ins.; Wood v. Detroit Auto. Inter.-Ins. Exch.; Tinnin v. Farmers Ins. Exch.; Overdue benefits; MCL 500.3142(2); Sanctions; MCR 2.312(A) & 2.313(C); Midwest Bus Corp. v. Department of Treasury

    Summary:

    Holding that the trial court failed to correctly calculate a reasonable attorney fee, but did not err in any other respect, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. Plaintiff sued defendant seeking UM and PIP benefits for injuries she sustained in a car accident. The trial court granted her motion for a directed verdict as to defendant’s failure to pay a prescription bill during the period of time it was voluntarily paying her PIP benefits. As to all other aspects of her claims, the jury returned a verdict for defendant, finding that the accident did not cause her to suffer a serious impairment of an important body function, and that she had not incurred any allowable PIP expenses in excess of what defendant had already paid. The trial court entered a final judgment partially in favor of plaintiff, and a combined order that granted her a small portion of the no-fault attorney fees she requested against defendant. On appeal, the court rejected plaintiff’s argument that the trial court erred by denying her motion to preclude the admission of the deposition testimony of defendant’s three medical experts because a proper foundation was not laid in refreshing their recollections at their respective depositions, noting “it was not outside the range of reasonable and principled outcomes to hold that the witnesses’ memories had, in fact, been refreshed by their respective evaluations.” It also rejected her claim that the trial court erred by providing a spoliation instruction to the jury as to her failure to produce calendars that purportedly documented the household services her husband performed while she was unable to do so, finding that “because the only question of fact that existed with regard to the calendars was whether plaintiff had a reasonable excuse for disposing of them, the trial court did not abuse its discretion by giving the jury instruction.” However, the court agreed with plaintiff that the trial court failed to properly determine the amount of a reasonable fee. “[I]n determining the baseline fee in accordance with Pirgu, [it] is to include all attorney time that was relevant to recovery of the overdue benefit, even if that time was also relevant to other aspects of the case. Attorney time that was related only to other aspects of the action, and did not bear on the benefits unreasonably withheld, should be excluded from the baseline. Any further limitation on the baseline number of hours would be difficult to square with Pirgu, the statute, or with the principle that the no-fault act’s provisions should be liberally construed in favor of the intended beneficiaries.” Finally, it rejected her contention that the trial court erred by denying sanctions on the basis of defendant’s negative response to her request to admit the vehicle that hit her was not insured, noting defendant “lacked sufficient information to either affirm or deny the request.”

    Full Text Opinion

  • Litigation (2)

    Full Text Opinion

    This summary also appears under Insurance

    e-Journal #: 73951
    Case: Komendat v. Gifford
    Court: Michigan Court of Appeals ( Published Opinion )
    Judges: Per Curiam – Beckering, Fort Hood, and Shapiro
    Issues:

    Action seeking uninsured motorist (UM) & personal protection insurance (PIP) benefits under the No-Fault Act; Expert testimony; Personal knowledge; MRE 602; Citizens Nat’l Bank of Cheboygan v. Mayes; Refreshing a witness’s memory; Genna v. Jackson; Objections to a witness’s competency; MCR 2.308(C)(3)(a); Objection that counsel failed to lay a proper foundation for questions asked; Moore v. Lederle Labs.; Preservation of evidence; Brenner v. Kolk; Spoliation instruction; M Civ JI 6.01; Pugno v. Blue Harvest Farms LLC; Determining no-fault attorney fees; MCL 500.3148(1); MRPC 1.5(a); Pirgu v. United Servs. Auto. Ass’n; Proudfoot v. State Farm Mut. Ins. Co.; Moore v. Secura Ins.; Wood v. Detroit Auto. Inter.-Ins. Exch.; Tinnin v. Farmers Ins. Exch.; Overdue benefits; MCL 500.3142(2); Sanctions; MCR 2.312(A) & 2.313(C); Midwest Bus Corp. v. Department of Treasury

    Summary:

    Holding that the trial court failed to correctly calculate a reasonable attorney fee, but did not err in any other respect, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. Plaintiff sued defendant seeking UM and PIP benefits for injuries she sustained in a car accident. The trial court granted her motion for a directed verdict as to defendant’s failure to pay a prescription bill during the period of time it was voluntarily paying her PIP benefits. As to all other aspects of her claims, the jury returned a verdict for defendant, finding that the accident did not cause her to suffer a serious impairment of an important body function, and that she had not incurred any allowable PIP expenses in excess of what defendant had already paid. The trial court entered a final judgment partially in favor of plaintiff, and a combined order that granted her a small portion of the no-fault attorney fees she requested against defendant. On appeal, the court rejected plaintiff’s argument that the trial court erred by denying her motion to preclude the admission of the deposition testimony of defendant’s three medical experts because a proper foundation was not laid in refreshing their recollections at their respective depositions, noting “it was not outside the range of reasonable and principled outcomes to hold that the witnesses’ memories had, in fact, been refreshed by their respective evaluations.” It also rejected her claim that the trial court erred by providing a spoliation instruction to the jury as to her failure to produce calendars that purportedly documented the household services her husband performed while she was unable to do so, finding that “because the only question of fact that existed with regard to the calendars was whether plaintiff had a reasonable excuse for disposing of them, the trial court did not abuse its discretion by giving the jury instruction.” However, the court agreed with plaintiff that the trial court failed to properly determine the amount of a reasonable fee. “[I]n determining the baseline fee in accordance with Pirgu, [it] is to include all attorney time that was relevant to recovery of the overdue benefit, even if that time was also relevant to other aspects of the case. Attorney time that was related only to other aspects of the action, and did not bear on the benefits unreasonably withheld, should be excluded from the baseline. Any further limitation on the baseline number of hours would be difficult to square with Pirgu, the statute, or with the principle that the no-fault act’s provisions should be liberally construed in favor of the intended beneficiaries.” Finally, it rejected her contention that the trial court erred by denying sanctions on the basis of defendant’s negative response to her request to admit the vehicle that hit her was not insured, noting defendant “lacked sufficient information to either affirm or deny the request.”

    Full Text Opinion

    Full Text Opinion

    This summary also appears under Real Property

    e-Journal #: 73948
    Case: Freed v. Thomas
    Court: U.S. Court of Appeals Sixth Circuit ( Published Opinion )
    Judges: Siler and Gibbons; Dissent - Larsen
    Issues:

    Action alleging an unconstitutional taking of real property under 42 USC § 1983; Whether the federal court had subject-matter jurisdiction; Williamson Cnty. Reg’l Planning Comm’n v. Hamilton Bank of Johnson City; Whether a takings claim under the General Property Tax Act (MCL 211.78 et seq.) can be brought in federal court upon the taking of property without just compensation; Wayside Church v. Van Buren Cnty.; Rafaeli, LLC v. Oakland Cnty. (Rafaeli I & II); Knick v. Township of Scott; Whether the Tax Injunction Act (TIA) barred federal jurisdiction; 28 USC § 1341; Rosewell v. LaSalle Nat’l Bank; Direct Mktg. Ass’n v. Brohl; Hibbs v. Winn; Coleman ex rel. Bunn v. District of Columbia (D DC); Islamic Ctr. of Nashville v. Tennessee; Whether the doctrine of comity barred federal jurisdiction; Chippewa Trading Co. v. Cox; Fair Assessment in Real Estate Ass’n, Inc. v. McNary; National Private Truck Council, Inc. v. Oklahoma Tax Comm’n; Dictum; BDT Prods., Inc. v. Lexmark Int’l, Inc.; Distinguishing a holding from dictum; United States v. Hardin; United States v. Swanson; Metropolitan Hosp. v. United States Dep’t of Health & Human Servs.

    Summary:

    [This appeal was from the ED-MI.] Holding that neither the TIA nor the related doctrine of comity barred plaintiff-property owner’s suit from proceeding in federal court, the court reversed and remanded. He brought this action after the state foreclosed on his property (for falling behind approximately $1,100 on his property taxes), sold it at auction for approximately half of its fair market value, and kept all the proceeds. The district court agreed with defendants that plaintiff could not bring his claim in federal court and dismissed it. On appeal, the court first found that the “TIA does not preclude the exercise of federal jurisdiction in this case because [plaintiff] is not attempting to enjoin Michigan’s assessment, levy, or collection of a state tax.” It noted that “this is a case about post-collection federal constitutional violations that may proceed in federal court, not a tax case barred by the TIA.” Plaintiff was not seeking to “anticipatorily restrain collection of a state tax.” He also was not “bringing a facial constitutional challenge to Michigan’s tax-collection procedures.” Rather, the case was about “refund procedures, not collection procedures. Moreover, the excess sale proceeds at issue in this lawsuit arise from a tax-foreclosure sale, but they are not tax proceeds.” Any funds in excess of his “$1,100 tax debt—the only funds at issue in this lawsuit—represent surplus property, not tax proceeds.” The court also found that “the principle of comity between the federal courts and state governments does not bar this suit in federal court because [plaintiff] does not challenge the validity of Michigan’s tax system.” It noted that a favorable outcome for him would “not prevent Michigan from foreclosing on and selling property to recover delinquent taxes.” In addition, “takings suits in federal courts to recover excess equity as a result of state tax foreclosure sales do not violate” judicial federalism, and plaintiff “may invoke the protection of the federal courts to seek compensation for an alleged unconstitutional taking by a local government in violation of the Fifth Amendment.” The court found that the “Wayside Church majority’s discussion on the TIA and comity” should be treated as dictum “since the court concluded in its primary holding that it lacked jurisdiction based on Williamson County.

    Full Text Opinion

  • Municipal (1)

    Full Text Opinion

    This summary also appears under Real Property

    e-Journal #: 73949
    Case: Stomber v. Sanilac Cnty. Drain Comm'r
    Court: Michigan Supreme Court ( Order )
    Judges: McCormack, Viviano, Markman, Zahra, Bernstein, Clement, and Cavanagh
    Issues:

    Extent of a drain easement; Interpreting the right-of-way releases conveying rights to strips of land on either side of the drain center line

    Summary:

    In an order in lieu of granting leave to appeal, the court vacated the Court of Appeals judgment (see e-Journal # 72008 in the 1/13/20 edition) and remanded the case to that court for reconsideration. The “case required the Court of Appeals to determine the actual extent of an easement for a drain that runs across the southern edge of” plaintiff’s property. The right-of-way releases conveyed rights to 50-foot strips of land on either side of the drain center line. The “strips were legally described, in part, as ‘land 50 feet wide on each side of a line . . . for construction of drain and deposition of earth. . . .’” There was also a provision in the releases referred to as the “and also” language. In interpreting this provision, based on this language, the Court of Appeals concluded that the easement actually extended beyond the 50-foot strips. But the court found that it failed to “clearly articulate how it arrived at this conclusion.” The court directed it on remand to “reconsider whether the easement actually extends beyond the [50]-foot strips explicitly described in the releases by addressing: (1) the basis for the conclusion that ‘[t]he drafters of the releases would have understood the formal property descriptions to be the “surveys” referenced in the above language[;]’ (2) whether the ‘formal property descriptions’ of the [50]-foot strips referred only to ‘the extreme width of said drain as shown in the survey thereof,’ and, if so, the basis for this determination; (3) whether ‘the “and also” clause was merely a reference back to the same [50]-foot strips,’ and, if so, the basis for this determination; (4) whether the inclusion of the phrase ‘for construction of drain and deposition of earth’ within the ‘formal property descriptions’ contemplates land other than the drain itself located within the [50]-foot strips that was reserved for maintenance; and (5) whether ‘and also’ merely conjoined ‘the extreme width of said drain as shown in the survey thereof’ with ‘sufficient ground on either side of the center line of said drain’ in describing in plain language what the conveyance included.” It also directed the Court of Appeals to reconsider the claims impacted by the determination of whether the easement extends beyond the 50-foot strips that were disposed of on summary disposition under MCR 2.116(C)(7) and (8).

    Full Text Opinion

  • Real Property (2)

    Full Text Opinion

    This summary also appears under Municipal

    e-Journal #: 73949
    Case: Stomber v. Sanilac Cnty. Drain Comm'r
    Court: Michigan Supreme Court ( Order )
    Judges: McCormack, Viviano, Markman, Zahra, Bernstein, Clement, and Cavanagh
    Issues:

    Extent of a drain easement; Interpreting the right-of-way releases conveying rights to strips of land on either side of the drain center line

    Summary:

    In an order in lieu of granting leave to appeal, the court vacated the Court of Appeals judgment (see e-Journal # 72008 in the 1/13/20 edition) and remanded the case to that court for reconsideration. The “case required the Court of Appeals to determine the actual extent of an easement for a drain that runs across the southern edge of” plaintiff’s property. The right-of-way releases conveyed rights to 50-foot strips of land on either side of the drain center line. The “strips were legally described, in part, as ‘land 50 feet wide on each side of a line . . . for construction of drain and deposition of earth. . . .’” There was also a provision in the releases referred to as the “and also” language. In interpreting this provision, based on this language, the Court of Appeals concluded that the easement actually extended beyond the 50-foot strips. But the court found that it failed to “clearly articulate how it arrived at this conclusion.” The court directed it on remand to “reconsider whether the easement actually extends beyond the [50]-foot strips explicitly described in the releases by addressing: (1) the basis for the conclusion that ‘[t]he drafters of the releases would have understood the formal property descriptions to be the “surveys” referenced in the above language[;]’ (2) whether the ‘formal property descriptions’ of the [50]-foot strips referred only to ‘the extreme width of said drain as shown in the survey thereof,’ and, if so, the basis for this determination; (3) whether ‘the “and also” clause was merely a reference back to the same [50]-foot strips,’ and, if so, the basis for this determination; (4) whether the inclusion of the phrase ‘for construction of drain and deposition of earth’ within the ‘formal property descriptions’ contemplates land other than the drain itself located within the [50]-foot strips that was reserved for maintenance; and (5) whether ‘and also’ merely conjoined ‘the extreme width of said drain as shown in the survey thereof’ with ‘sufficient ground on either side of the center line of said drain’ in describing in plain language what the conveyance included.” It also directed the Court of Appeals to reconsider the claims impacted by the determination of whether the easement extends beyond the 50-foot strips that were disposed of on summary disposition under MCR 2.116(C)(7) and (8).

    Full Text Opinion

    Full Text Opinion

    This summary also appears under Litigation

    e-Journal #: 73948
    Case: Freed v. Thomas
    Court: U.S. Court of Appeals Sixth Circuit ( Published Opinion )
    Judges: Siler and Gibbons; Dissent - Larsen
    Issues:

    Action alleging an unconstitutional taking of real property under 42 USC § 1983; Whether the federal court had subject-matter jurisdiction; Williamson Cnty. Reg’l Planning Comm’n v. Hamilton Bank of Johnson City; Whether a takings claim under the General Property Tax Act (MCL 211.78 et seq.) can be brought in federal court upon the taking of property without just compensation; Wayside Church v. Van Buren Cnty.; Rafaeli, LLC v. Oakland Cnty. (Rafaeli I & II); Knick v. Township of Scott; Whether the Tax Injunction Act (TIA) barred federal jurisdiction; 28 USC § 1341; Rosewell v. LaSalle Nat’l Bank; Direct Mktg. Ass’n v. Brohl; Hibbs v. Winn; Coleman ex rel. Bunn v. District of Columbia (D DC); Islamic Ctr. of Nashville v. Tennessee; Whether the doctrine of comity barred federal jurisdiction; Chippewa Trading Co. v. Cox; Fair Assessment in Real Estate Ass’n, Inc. v. McNary; National Private Truck Council, Inc. v. Oklahoma Tax Comm’n; Dictum; BDT Prods., Inc. v. Lexmark Int’l, Inc.; Distinguishing a holding from dictum; United States v. Hardin; United States v. Swanson; Metropolitan Hosp. v. United States Dep’t of Health & Human Servs.

    Summary:

    [This appeal was from the ED-MI.] Holding that neither the TIA nor the related doctrine of comity barred plaintiff-property owner’s suit from proceeding in federal court, the court reversed and remanded. He brought this action after the state foreclosed on his property (for falling behind approximately $1,100 on his property taxes), sold it at auction for approximately half of its fair market value, and kept all the proceeds. The district court agreed with defendants that plaintiff could not bring his claim in federal court and dismissed it. On appeal, the court first found that the “TIA does not preclude the exercise of federal jurisdiction in this case because [plaintiff] is not attempting to enjoin Michigan’s assessment, levy, or collection of a state tax.” It noted that “this is a case about post-collection federal constitutional violations that may proceed in federal court, not a tax case barred by the TIA.” Plaintiff was not seeking to “anticipatorily restrain collection of a state tax.” He also was not “bringing a facial constitutional challenge to Michigan’s tax-collection procedures.” Rather, the case was about “refund procedures, not collection procedures. Moreover, the excess sale proceeds at issue in this lawsuit arise from a tax-foreclosure sale, but they are not tax proceeds.” Any funds in excess of his “$1,100 tax debt—the only funds at issue in this lawsuit—represent surplus property, not tax proceeds.” The court also found that “the principle of comity between the federal courts and state governments does not bar this suit in federal court because [plaintiff] does not challenge the validity of Michigan’s tax system.” It noted that a favorable outcome for him would “not prevent Michigan from foreclosing on and selling property to recover delinquent taxes.” In addition, “takings suits in federal courts to recover excess equity as a result of state tax foreclosure sales do not violate” judicial federalism, and plaintiff “may invoke the protection of the federal courts to seek compensation for an alleged unconstitutional taking by a local government in violation of the Fifth Amendment.” The court found that the “Wayside Church majority’s discussion on the TIA and comity” should be treated as dictum “since the court concluded in its primary holding that it lacked jurisdiction based on Williamson County.

    Full Text Opinion

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