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summaries of opinions as they are released from the Michigan Supreme Court, Michigan Court of Appeals (published & unpublished), and selected U.S. Sixth Circuit.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.
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Sentencing; Scoring of 10 points for OV 19; MCL 777.49(c); People v. Hardy; People v. Francisco; People v. Sours; People v. McKewen; Proportionality; MCL 769.34(10); People v. Powell
Holding that the trial court properly scored 10 points for OV 19, the court affirmed defendant’s sentence. He was convicted of AWIGBH and felony-firearm. Defendant previously appealed his convictions and sentences, and the court affirmed his convictions but reversed and remanded for resentencing. The trial court resentenced him as a second-offense habitual offender to concurrent terms of 71 to 180 months “for his AWIGBH convictions to be served consecutively to each 2-year sentence for his felony-firearm convictions.” He argued that the trial court erred by scoring 10 points for OV 19. Both victims testified “that they saw the defendant go behind his house after he shot them. An officer testified that he found a gun under a shed in defendant’s backyard, and a forensic scientist testified that defendant’s DNA profile matched the DNA profile found on the gun.” Thus, a preponderance of the evidence supported the trial court’s finding that he “hid the gun that he used to shoot the victims under a shed in his backyard immediately after committing the assaults to evade being caught and held accountable for the sentencing offense.” Because evidence established that he hid the gun, the trial court did not err by finding that he “attempted to interfere with the administration of justice and properly” scored 10 points for OV 19. Moreover, both parties agreed that assessing 0 “points rather than 10 points for OV 19 would not alter defendant’s minimum sentencing guidelines range.”
Copyright infringement; Sufficiency of the evidence supporting the jury’s verdict that plaintiff owned a copyright in the HVAC guide at issue (the Guide); Sykes v. Anderson; Whether the jury reasonably determined that the Guide contained enough originality to establish copyright protection; Feist Publ’ns, Inc. v. Rural Tel. Serv. Co.; Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc. v. Nation Enters.; Jury instructions; 17 USC §§ 103(a) & (b); § 106(2); 37 CFR § 202.1; Pickett v. Prince (7th Cir.); The merger doctrine; Lexmark Int’l, Inc. v. Static Control Components, Inc.; CCC Info. Servs., Inc. v. Maclean Hunter Mkt. Reports, Inc. (2d Cir.); Warren Publ’g, Inc. v. Microdos Data Corp. (11th Cir.); Gates Rubber Co. v. Bando Chem. Indus., Ltd. (10th Cir.)
The court affirmed the district court’s denial of intervenor-Clockwork IP’s motion for judgment as a matter of law where the jury could have reasonably concluded that plaintiff-Hiller had copyright protection over any original parts of the HVAC Guide at issue that did not incorporate copyright-protected content from Clockwork’s manuals (the Manuals). Clockwork argued that it was the rightful owner of the Guide, and not Hiller, the registered copyright holder of the allegedly infringed material. Clockwork sought a declaratory judgment invalidating Hiller’s copyright, claiming that the information in the Guide infringed on its own Manuals. A jury determined that defendant-Success Group had infringed on Hiller’s copyright, and denied Clockwork’s request for declaratory relief. The district court then denied its motion for JNOV. The court rejected Clockwork’s argument that the jury could not have reasonably found that the Guide contained sufficient “originality” to meet the threshold for copyright protection. It held that Hiller’s choices as to selection and organization were “creative” and that the material was “independently created” for Hiller, providing “copyright protection to any original parts of the Guide that did not incorporate copyright-protected elements of the Manuals.” The court also held that the district court did not err by instructing the jury that “Hiller could hold a copyright in the Guide, even though it contained Clockwork-copyrighted material, so long as that material did not ‘pervade the entire work.’” Further, it concluded that “the jury reasonably found that Hiller maintained a valid copyright in the Guide, which would extend copyright protection to the Guide’s original content . . . but would not cover the content taken from the Manuals.” The court also noted that many of the similarities between the Guide and the Manuals were not protectable because they were “short phrases” or “because the underlying ideas are ‘merged’ with their expression[.]” Clockwork also challenged the jury instructions that Hiller could lose its copyright “only if unauthorized Clockwork material ‘pervaded’ the Guide.” The court held that this instruction correctly followed the Copyright Act, and that “because the Guide contains discrete parts, some of which are clearly not based on protected elements the Manuals, the district court properly instructed the jury that it could find that Hiller maintained a copyright in some parts of the Guide even if other parts copied from the Manuals without authorization.”
Defamation; Lakin v. Rund; Actual malice; Ireland v. Edwards; Harte-Hanks Comm'cns, Inc. v. Connaughton; New York Times Co. v. Sullivan; Masson v. New Yorker Magazine; Smith v. Anonymous Joint Enter.; MCL 600.2911(6); The clear-&-convincing-evidence standard; In re Conservatorship of Shirley Bittner; Garrison v. Louisiana; Ocala Star-Banner Co. v. Damron
Holding that the trial court erred by ruling plaintiff-Bentivolio had established an actionable defamation claim, the court reversed and remanded for entry of summary disposition in favor of defendant-Raczkowski. The parties are political rivals. Bentivolio claimed that in 2017 and 2018, “Raczkowski told several people that Bentivolio had lied about his military record, exaggerating the number and quality of the service medals he had been awarded.” Bentivolio brought this defamation case seeking vindication and damages. Bentivolio’s complaint alleged “two intertwined slanders: that Raczkowski falsely claimed that Bentivolio had misrepresented his military service record, and that Bentivolio’s actual representations regarding his service record were false.” Bentivolio insisted that “he never misrepresented his service record by claiming that he had been awarded a Purple Heart or a Silver Star, and that Raczkowski’s claims that Bentivolio had lied about his medals was untrue and defamatory.” The court tested “both species of statements by applying the actual malice standard. Both fall short.” The evidence solidly supported that “Raczkowski did not make ‘a deliberate decision’ to avoid acquiring knowledge of the truth and did not harbor concerns that his statements about Bentivolio’s record were false.”
Quiet title action; MCL 600.2932(1); Beulah Hoagland Appleton Qualified Pers. Residence Trust v. Emmet Cnty. Rd. Comm’n; Adverse possession; Marlette Auto Wash, LLC v. Van Dyke SC Props., LLC; MCL 600.5801(4); Easement by prescription; Plymouth Canton Cmty. Crier, Inc. v. Prose; “Tacking”; Killips v. Mannisto; Privity; Connelly v. Buckingham
Holding that plaintiff established title, and that defendants did not show superior title, the court affirmed summary disposition for plaintiff in this quiet title action under MCL 600.2932(1). A survey (the Kennedy Survey) she had done in preparation for building a home on her vacant property revealed possible encroachments onto it by defendants. When she filed suit, they “counterclaimed for quiet title, and alternatively claimed that they had acquired the disputed property through adverse possession, or had acquired a prescriptive easement for” its continued use. They also had a survey (the White Survey) done, which had two lines depicting the boundary; one “was labeled ‘S. line sec. 4/N. line of sec. 9 . . . .’” The “Surveyor’s Note” referred to this line as the “south line of section 4,” which was how the court referenced it. The “other line was labeled the ‘line of occupation.’ If the boundary of the defendants’ property was the ‘south line of section 4,’ then there were encroachments onto plaintiff’s property, but if the boundary was the ‘line of occupation,’ then all of the alleged encroachments were actually on” their property. However, the court noted that “the line of occupation was not determined with reference to any recording of land. More importantly, the line of occupation conflicts with defendants’ recorded deed.” Their property measured from the south line of section 4 conformed with the dimensions of their property as reflected in their deed, while their property measured from the line of occupation did not. “This fact, combined with the fact that the south line of section 4 was measured by reference to a recording of property (plaintiff’s deed) while the line of occupation was not,” led the court to determine “that no reasonable juror could find that the non-recorded ‘line of occupation’ on the White Survey was the true boundary line of defendants’ property. Thus, based on (1) the filing of plaintiff’s deed and (2) the Kennedy and White Surveys,” no question of material fact existed that she had title to the disputed property. Further, “the 15 years necessary for defendants to establish a claim of either adverse possession or a prescriptive easement” as to any of the encroachments had not elapsed. And because they could not establish privity of estate, they could not “tack on the possessory period of their predecessors in interest” to satisfy the 15-year requirement.
State Bar of Michigan
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Lansing, MI 48933-2012