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PROBATE 42: The court held that the trial court did not err by granting defendant summary disposition of plaintiff-PR’s fraud and conversion action on the basis that it was barred by a prior judgment.

Plaintiff brought suit against Defendant alleging statutory and common law conversion. In July 2018, a global settlement was reached as to the various matters pending in the probate court. Relevant to this appeal, Plaintiff’s conversion claims against Defendant were dismissed with prejudice. All of the heirs to the estate or their attorneys consented to the settlement agreement and were present for the hearing where it was read into the record. An order regarding the settlement was entered in August 2018. In January 2019, Plaintiff filed the instant action as personal representative. The complaint alleged statutory and common law conversion on the basis of Defendant’s withdrawals from the joint savings account, and also claimed fraud for Defendant’s alleged actions that removed a block on the account. In lieu of filing an answer, Defendant  moved for summary disposition under MCR 2.116(C)(7), arguing that the estate was barred from relitigating issues and claims resolved by the 2018 settlement agreement. The circuit court later issued an opinion and order granting Defendant’s summary disposition. Having reviewed the probate court hearing and order containing the terms of the 2018 settlement agreement, the circuit court concluded that the estate’s claims were barred by res judicata.


On appeal, the estate argues that res judicata does not preclude the present action because the estate’s interests are distinct from the parties who entered into the 2018 settlement agreement.  The doctrine of res judicata is employed to prevent multiple suits litigating the same cause of action. The doctrine bars a second, subsequent action when (1) the prior action was decided on the merits, (2) both actions involve the same parties or their privies, and (3) the matter in the second case was, or could have been, resolved in the first. We review de novo a circuit court’s decision to grant summary disposition under MCR2.116(C)(7). There is no dispute that the 2018 settlement dismissing Plaintiff’s conversion claims against Defendant was a decision on the merits. Nor does the estate dispute that its instant claims were or could have been resolved in the 2018 case. Thus, the question in this case is whether the second element of res judicata is satisfied. The estate was not a party to the prior action and so we must determine whether privity exists in this case. All those with an interest in the estate were aware of Plaintiff’s claims against Defendant and agreed to resolve that dispute as part of the global settlement. In sum, as it pertains to the claims against Defendant, the estate itself has no interest distinct from the combined interests of those who consented to the 2018 settlement agreement. For these reasons, we conclude that the estate was adequately represented in the prior action.

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MICHIGAN REAL ESTATE 95: Property owners did not place a condition upon the delivery of the deed; rather, they delivered the deed to themselves.

When the delivery of a deed is contingent upon the happening of some future event, title to the subject property will not transfer to the grantee until the event has occurred. However, in this case A and J did not place a condition upon the delivery of the deed; rather, they delivered the deed to themselves, then deposited the deed with their attorney with the instruction to record the deed only upon the happening of a future event, thereby placing a condition only upon the recording of the deed.

MICHIGAN PROBATE 57: Brother granted permanent guardianship of siblings.

At a multiday hearing to address the extension of the guardianship, the eldest children, the mother’s relatives and friends, and school personnel testified regarding the mother’s care of the children, appellant’s treatment of and interaction with the children, and the eldest siblings’ role in aiding the mother to raise the children.

FAMILY LAW 88: The trial court found that the children did not have an established custodial environment with defendant because, before the separation, he did not have a large role in the children’s lives.

The trial court credited plaintiff’s testimony that, before the parties’ separation, defendant spent minimal time helping to care for the children, so its finding that the children would not have looked to defendant for guidance, discipline, the necessities of life, and parental comfort during that time was not against the great weight of the evidence.

REAL ESTATE 89: RM had not included any language in the deed providing that the property was a joint tenancy with full rights of survivorship, the property instead became a tenancy in common.

RM drafted the deed without seeking counsel and mistakenly believed that, if either she or FK died, the property would fully pass to the surviving tenant. FK’s will provided that if his wife predeceased him—which she did—the personal representative of his estate should sell any residual property that he owned and divide the cash proceeds equally among his surviving children.

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.

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