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CONTRACTS 1: Services rendered during a meretricious relationship are presumably gratuitous.

Plaintiff and defendant were involved in a romantic relationship, but never married. According to plaintiff, the parties cohabited for 18 months with defendant’s minor children. At some point in the relationship, plaintiff began paying for defendant’s living expenses, including some of the children’s expenses. After the relationship ended, plaintiff sued defendant, seeking repayment for $68,784.50 in payments he claims he made for her living expenses.

Plaintiff claimed that he had loaned defendant the $68,784.50 and that defendant orally or impliedly agreed to repay plaintiff, but failed to do so. Alternatively, plaintiff argued that he was entitled to payment under theories of unjust enrichment, promissory estoppel, and fraud.

Defendant admitted that plaintiff had paid the couple’s living expenses, but denied that plaintiff ever gave her a loan or that they had an agreement for defendant to repay plaintiff for living expenses. Defendant moved for summary disposition under MCR 2.116(C)(8) and (C)(10). In support of her motion, defendant presented the court with numerous text messages between her and defendant tending to support her theory that plaintiff had paid the expenses gratuitously. Plaintiff did not challenge the authenticity of the text messages and offered no other documentary evidence to support his causes of action.

Services rendered during a meretricious relationship are presumably gratuitous. To overcome this presumption, plaintiff must show that he/she expected compensation from defendant at the time he/she rendered the services and that defendant expected to pay for them.  The phrase meretricious relationship is defined to mean a stable, marriage like relationship in which the parties cohabit knowing that a lawful marriage between them does not exist.

The trial court granted summary disposition in defendant’s favor on all counts.

Regarding the breach of contract claim, the trial court concluded that the parties enjoyed a meretricious relationship and plaintiff had failed to present any evidence from which plaintiff could rebut the presumption of gratuitous intent. The trial court further concluded, that no factual development could establish that defendant’s retention of the benefit would be inequitable and dismissed the unjust enrichment claim. Regarding the promissory estoppel claim, the trial court concluded that no factual development could establish any promise made by defendant or plaintiff’s reliance on any promise. Finally, concerning the fraud claim, the trial court found that no factual development could establish that defendant made knowingly or recklessly a false material representation inducing plaintiff’s reliance and injury.

On defendant’s motion, at a later hearing, the trial court ordered plaintiff to pay defendant the sum of $17,531.25 in attorney fees and $126.07 in costs as a sanction for filing a frivolous lawsuit.

Plaintiff’s failure to present any evidence or legal argument reasonably supporting his claims renders the trial court’s award of attorney fees wholly appropriate.  The court held that the trial court did not err by granting summary disposition for defendant and awarding her attorney fees and costs.

Our founder, Brad Aldrich, has litigated thousands of cases throughout his more than 19 years of practicing law. If litigation is necessary, he can put his trial experience to work for you. He also has the knowledge you need to resolve disputes without litigation. Our firm is committed to helping you find resolutions to all of your legal needs, allowing you to move on with your life in a positive way.

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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.

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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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