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CONTRACTS 16: Claim for payment of commissions post termination.

Plaintiff supplied technical workers to defendant and retains a percentage of the fees received by the customers for the workers placed with them. The written agreement signed by plaintiff states the following terms regarding compensation: 5% commission on all billable hours logged for all workers. Commission is paid monthly. All employment contracts are written.  Plaintiff was terminated in 2016.

In 2018, plaintiff filed an action asserting that defendant stopped paying plaintiff the 5% commission for referred workers in 2016 and failed to provide an accounting of billings for employees referred by plaintiff.

Motion for Summary Disposition

Defendant filed a motion for summary disposition. Defendant asserted that plaintiff’s breach-of-contract claim was unenforceable as a matter of law because the written agreement did not require the payment of commissions to plaintiff after termination of his employment or for defendant to provide plaintiff with an accounting of the hours billed for referred workers.

Contract Ambiguous

The court denied summary disposition on plaintiff’s breach-of-contract claim for payment of post termination commissions, noting that the contract was silent regarding termination of the contract and the obligation to pay commissions after the termination of employment.

An employment contract is just a contract. The goal of contract interpretation is to give effect to the intent of the parties, to be determined first and foremost by the plain and unambiguous language of the contract itself.

At best, the contract is silent on this issue. Although silence does not equal ambiguity if the law provides a rule to be applied in the absence of a provision to the contrary.

The court agreed that the contract’s silence on the issue of post termination commissions does not, by itself, require the payment of such commissions. Rather, because the employment contract is ambiguous on this issue and no rule of law governs its resolution, further factual development is necessary to resolve the ambiguity. Therefore, summary disposition under MCR 2.116(C)(8) is inappropriate.

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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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