Monday, April 09, 2007

Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due....

And I think it is due. This is the type of case which can easily be deemed to "small" for a Supreme Court's attention, yet the Michigan Supreme Court stepped in and did the right thing. You may recall my earlier rant about this case:
Many years ago I worked with a highly ethical manufactured home community, such that I was never asked to interpret the boundaries of this statute. But if asked, I would have indicated that to me the immunity extended only to damage incidental to the execution of a court's order. That is, nobody in his right mind would confuse an order of eviction with a court's grant of permission to trash a tenant's property, but if something were accidentally dropped, dinged, dented or damaged during the eviction process the landlord would be safe from a lawsuit. With a manufactured home, that would include damage incidental to the removal of the home from its foundation and utilities hookups, and which might occur during transport due to the contents being unsecured.

Boy, would my advice have been excessively cautious. You see, as it turns out (albeit by the terms of an unpublished and therefore non-precedentially binding decision) the landlord and his agents would enjoy absolute immunity for any damage they caused to the tenant's property, even if resulting in the total loss or destruction of the property.
On Friday, the Michigan Supreme Court held,
On order of the Court, the application for leave to appeal the June 13, 2006 judgment of the Court of Appeals is considered and, pursuant to MCR 7.302(G)(1), in lieu of granting leave to appeal, we REVERSE that part of the judgment of the Court of Appeals that found the defendants immune from suit under MCL 600.2918(3) because "plaintiffs' allegations unquestionably directly arose as a result of the eviction performed by Hometown America and its agent." Slip op, p 5. The plain language of MCL 600.2918(3) provides immunity only for actions undertaken pursuant to an order of eviction. Accepting the plaintiffs' well-pleaded factual allegations as true, and construing them in a light most favorable to the plaintiffs, certain of the defendants' actions, including the conversion and destruction of plaintiffs' property in a manner that was neither necessary to effect the eviction nor incidental to the process of eviction, cannot be said as a matter of law to be within the scope of the July 7, 2004 order of eviction, and hence, may not have been undertaken pursuant to that order. Thus, the circuit court erred in granting summary disposition to the defendants under MCR 2.116(C)(7). We REMAND this case to the St. Clair Circuit Court for further proceedings not inconsistent with this order. The application for leave to appeal as cross-appellant is DENIED, because we are not persuaded that the questions presented should be reviewed by this Court.
I remain wary of the Supreme Court's tendency to reverse cases without hearing, and certainly don't always agree that justice results. But they got this one right.

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