e-Journal Summary

e-Journal Number : 48790
Opinion Date : 05/10/2011
e-Journal Date : 06/02/2011
Court : Michigan Court of Appeals
Case Name : Morris v. Ryan
Practice Area(s) : Personal Protection Orders
Judge(s) : Per Curiam – Donofrio, Borrello, and Beckering
Full Text Opinion
Issues:

Whether the trial court's findings of fact supporting its decision to deny respondent's motion to terminate the PPO were supported by the record and were sufficient to constitute stalking; MCL 600.2950(30)(c); Hayford v. Hayford; Saffian v. Simmons; Brandt v. Brandt; "Clear error"; Hill v. City of Warren; Lumley v. Board of Regents for Univ. of MI; MCL 750.411h; MCL 750.411i; MCL 600.2950a(1); "Harassment"; MCL 750.411h(1)(d); "‘Course of conduct"; MCL 750.411h(1)(a); "Unconsented contact"; MCL 750.411h(1)(e)

Summary

The court held that the trial court's factual findings did not constitute clear error because there was sufficient evidentiary support for the findings in the record. Thus, the trial court properly denied in part the respondent's motion to terminate the PPO granted to petitioner. Petitioner petitioned for a non-domestic PPO against respondent based on harassment, which included telephone calls and making comments to petitioner and her co-workers at her workplace. The conflict between petitioner and respondent arose because petitioner's husband claimed that respondent had not properly repaired their furnace, and he refused to fully pay for the repair. Petitioner's husband died a short time later. After the death of petitioner's husband, respondent sought payment for the repair from petitioner, but she too refused to pay the disputed amount of $347. Respondent sued petitioner for the remaining balance of the repair, and the district court entered a judgment against petitioner, which she paid respondent about one week after the judgment was entered. Payment to respondent was tendered approximately a year and a half before the 3/25/10 hearing on his motion to terminate the PPO. At the hearing, the trial court found there was harassment as defined under MCL 750.411h. Respondent argued on appeal that the trial court's findings of fact supporting its decision to deny his motion to terminate the PPO were not supported by the record, and they were insufficient to constitute stalking. Further, he argued that petitioner failed to meet her burden for establishing reasonable cause for the PPO and justification for the continuance of the PPO. He contended this case reflected nothing more than the trial court's desire to impose a "cooling off" period, which is not a legally justifiable reason for a PPO. The court noted that petitioner presented evidence as to "respondent's course of conduct in coming to her workplace on numerous separate occasions and making ‘unconsented harassing comments' about the civil lawsuit, petitioner's past, and her deceased husband to her and her employees that were overheard by customers. There was evidence that these comments were unconsented because petitioner avoided respondent whenever possible even if it meant simply walking away from him. She also testified that the comments were emotionally upsetting to her." Respondent asserted that his conduct was not harassment because he regularly dined at the eating establishment where petitioner was employed and his comments served the legitimate purpose of collecting debt. "However, the harassment was based on respondent's alleged comments, not simply his presence at the eating establishment, and the comments continued after" he collected the debt. While respondent had a legitimate claim against petitioner for the repair debt and arguably there was a close question as to whether his conduct amounted to harassment, "the trial court's decisions were not outside of the range of reasonable and principled outcomes in light of the evidence presented." Despite conflicting evidence as to respondent's comments, the court "affords great deference to the trial court's ability to judge the credibility of the witnesses." Thus, the court was not left with a definite and firm conviction that the trial court made a mistake. Affirmed.

Full Text Opinion