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Language of personal guaranty on construction project ambiguous as to date guaranty is effective

Holding that the Guaranty was ambiguous, the court affirmed the trial court's rulings that Sable (a plaintiff in one of these consolidated appeals and a defendant in the other) was personally liable for the amount of the Promissory Note and sums due under the SA accruing on or after 7/30/07. However, it reversed the trial court's damage findings as to that sum and, on remand, directed the trial court to recalculate damages so as to include contractual interest accruing after 7/30/07. It also reversed the trial court's ruling that the Guaranty's unambiguous language provided that Sable was not personally liable for sums accruing under the SA before 7/30/07, and remanded for further proceedings on that issue. The case arose out of construction projects and contracts between Stonecrest (also a plaintiff in one of the cases and a defendant in the other) and nonparty-Stock. As part of its settlement with Stock, CTIC (the defendant in one of the cases and the plaintiff in the other) was assigned all of Stock's claims against Sable and Stonecrest. CTIC argued that the Guaranty's clear and unambiguous language provided that Sable assumed personal liability for all sums owed by Stonecrest to Stock under the SA, including all debts incurred before 7/30/07. The trial court disagreed, essentially finding that the Guaranty unambiguously provided that Sable only assumed personal liability for the amounts that came due on or after 7/30/07. However, the court held that the Guaranty was ambiguous and, thus, reversed and remanded. Sable did not dispute the Guaranty's validity or his personal liability thereunder. There was no question that he "clearly expressed" his intent to "assume some personal liability under the Guaranty." He did not dispute that he was personally liable for the amount of the Promissory Note and the sums due under the SA accruing on and after 7/30/07. Thus, the question before the court was whether Sable assumed personal liability for those debts incurred under the SA before 7/30/07. The parties each contended that "the Guaranty unambiguously evidences their advocated interpretation." The court found that, particularly in light of the special nature of a guaranty contract, each party presented a reasonable reading of the Guaranty. Thus, the court held that the document was ambiguous as to the scope of Sable's personal liability; "specifically, if that liability extends to all sums owed or only those that came due on or after" 7/30/07. The trial court's grant of summary disposition was inappropriate. Further, on remand, in determining the amount of damages payable by Sable for "sums payable by Stonecrest" after 7/30/07, "the trial court shall calculate and include the amount of interest incurred after that date for principal debts incurred prior to that date." Affirmed in part, and reversed and remanded in part.

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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