MSC decides not to deal with sidewalk notice to cities after all

In the April 12 issue of Michigan Lawyers Weekly, I previewed oral arguments in Mawri v City of Dearborn, a case which dealt with requirements of a claimant’s notice to a city of an injury caused by a sidewalk defect.

In the case, the plaintiff sent a letter to the city in which he gave the wrong address (using the address next door) and did not describe the defect in the sidewalk.

The court heard arguments on April 13, and were apparently unmoved by Mawri’s case, vacating its order for leave affirming the Court of Appeals’ decision.

Justices Diane M. Hathaway and Chief Justice Marilyn Kelly dissented, citing the court’s 2009 decision in Bush v Shabahang:

The primary purpose of any notice statute is to provide timely notice to a defendant prior to suit. That objective was met in this case. The opinion of the Court of Appeals focuses on form rather than on the meaningful substantive requirements of MCL
691.1404(1). We recently addressed a similar pre-suit notice requirement in Bush v Shabahang, 484 Mich 156 (2009), and held that defects in a statutorily mandated pre-suit notice of intent in medical malpractice cases can be disregarded or cured by amendment under MCL 600.2301 as long as the plaintiff makes a good-faith attempt to comply with the notice provision.

MCL 600.2301 provides:

The court in which any action or proceeding is pending, has power
to amend any process, pleading or proceeding in such action or proceeding, either in form or substance, for the furtherance of justice, on such terms as are just, at any time before judgment rendered therein. The court at every stage of the action or proceeding shall disregard any error or defect in the
proceedings which do not affect the substantial rights of the parties.
[Emphasis added.]

I see no reason why MCL 600.2301 should not apply to the notice requirement in the present case for the same reasons expressed in Bush. Here the plaintiff made a good faith attempt to notify the defendant in a timely manner but the notice contained an ostensible defect. The defendant, however, had actual notice of the defect on a timely basis and accordingly no substantial right of any party was affected. Because § 2301 mandates that the court “shall disregard any error or defect in the proceedings which do not affect the substantial rights of the parties,” the Court of Appeals was required to disregard this minor technical defect.

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MSC to SCAO: Plan needed to track court collections programs

The Michigan Supreme Court wants the state’s trial courts to do a better job of collecting court-ordered financial sanctions from scofflaws.

Yesterday, the MSC told the State Court Administrative Office to come up with plans to make that happen.

Administrative Order No. 2010-1 directs the SCAO “establish court collections program requirements” for circuit courts, family divisions and district and municipal courts.

What’s motivating the MSC’s directive?

Enforcing court orders, including financial sanctions, is a responsibility of the courts that, if done effectively, enhances the courts’ integrity and credibility while providing funds to assure victims are made whole and support law enforcement, libraries, the crime victim’s rights fund, and local governments.

In other orders released yesterday, the MSC:

declined to amend MCR 6.302. The proposed amendment would have required all criminal plea discussions to take place in open court and on the record.

rejected amendments to MCR 3.210 and 3.211. The proposed amendments would have changed procedures courts use to grant judgments in domestic relations cases.

– made clear that that there is a 50-page limit for briefs when a circuit court is hearing an appeal from a district court or administrative agency. See ADM File No. 2009-14.

– incorporated parts of the Indian Child Welfare Act into the Michigan Court Rules relating to child protective proceedings and juvenile status offenses. See ADM File No. 2008-43.

appointed Judge Richard E. Vollbach, Jr. as the chief judge of the Arenac County Probate Court.