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An unlicensed builder cannot seek to 'collect' payments from a homeowner, but they are entitled to 'diminish' or 'defeat' actions filed against them by homeowners

Holding that the Court of Appeals properly found that MCL 339.2412(1) was inapplicable, but erred in finding that the contract between the plaintiffs-homeowners and the defendants-unlicensed builder (Willis) was void ab initio, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. Plaintiffs sued Willis, his business, a check cashing service they used (Denaglen), and others for damages resulting from restoration services performed on their home, and payment for those services. As to Willis and his business, they alleged that because he was unlicensed he was not entitled to compensation for his services, and that he defrauded them by signing their names and cashing their insurance checks, which totaled $128,047. As to Denaglen, they alleged that it "wrongfully cashed the insurance checks, acted in bad faith and without employing reasonable commercial standards, and converted the funds paid by" their insurer. Denaglen defaulted and the trial court denied its motion to set aside the default. The trial court granted summary disposition for plaintiffs and the Court of Appeals affirmed. The court agreed with the Court of Appeals' holding that MCL 339.2412(1) was inapplicable and thus, Willis was not precluded from defending himself in the suit. "MCL 339.2412(1) operates as a bar to actions, not a bar to defenses. It prevents an unlicensed builder from attempting to 'collect' payment from a homeowner through the filing of 'actions' in a court of law. It does not, however, prevent an unlicensed builder from seeking to 'diminish' or 'defeat' actions filed against the builder by arguing that the claimant has not been damaged by the builder to the extent alleged." It also agreed with the Court of Appeals that "MCL 339.2412(1) does not afford a homeowner a separate and independent right to demand that an unlicensed builder return funds paid for work conducted when the builder lacked the requisite license." A homeowner "is protected from the harm that may result from the performance of unlicensed work-- i.e., the provision of unsatisfactory or unsafe building services-- through existing and traditional common-law causes of action in tort and contract." However, it disagreed with the Court of Appeals' determination that the contract was void ab initio, concluding that "contracts involving an innocent homeowner and an unlicensed residential builder are voidable." Finally, the court held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by refusing to set aside Denaglen's default. However, as the proper amount of damages remained in dispute, "Denaglen may attempt to challenge the extent of its liability." 

FAMILY LAW 83: A trial court can terminate a parent’s rights and permit a stepparent to adopt a child.

A trial court has discretion to terminate a parent’s rights and permit a stepparent to adopt a child when the conditions of MCL 710.51(6) are met. MCL 710.51(6)(b) requires the petitioner to establish that the other parent had the ability to visit, contact, or communicate with the children, and substantially failed or neglected to do so for a period of two years.

PROBATE 53: The trust agreement included an Incontestability Provision.

A settlor’s intent is to be carried out as nearly as possible. Generally, in terrorem clauses are valid and enforceable. However, a provision in a trust that purports to penalize an interested person for contesting the trust or instituting another proceeding relating to the trust shall not be given effect if probable cause exists for instituting a proceeding contesting the trust or another proceeding relating to the trust.

FAMILY LAW 82: Court stated it would terminate the personal protection order (PPO) after the parties present documentation of the initiation of the divorce proceedings.

However, the trial court concluded that these matters should, in fact, be in the province and the jurisdiction of the Family Division and in that respect, having issued a personal protection order, the Court stated it would terminate the personal protection order after the parties present documentation of the initiation of the divorce proceedings.

What to Do When Homeowners Insurance Denies Your Claim

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What to Look for in a Criminal Defense Attorney

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PROBATE 51: Trust filed a petition to determine title to credit union account.

The probate court explained that the owners of the account are S and J. When S passes, J becomes the owner of the account. J is the one who had the authority to make the designation. Nowhere in any documents is there a designation by J that SJ be the owner -- or the beneficiary of the account. The designation made by his father was no longer binding because he was no longer the owner at the time J passed away.

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FAMILY LAW 77: Court awarded plaintiff sole legal custody; defendant was unwilling to work with plaintiff.

For joint custody to work, parents must be able to agree with each other on basic issues in child rearing including health care, religion, education, day to day decision making and discipline and they must be willing to cooperate with each other in joint decision making. If two equally capable parents are unable to cooperate and to agree generally concerning important decisions affecting the welfare of their children, the court has no alternative but to determine which parent shall have sole custody of the children.

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