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REAL ESTATE 38: Plaintiff fails to make land contract payments.

This case arises from a land contract and quitclaim deed that plaintiff signed with T Company on October 22, 2010. The land contract stated that T Company sold real property to plaintiff.  The land contract further stated that if plaintiff failed to make a monthly payment, T Company could execute the quitclaim deed, thereby terminating plaintiff’s rights to the real property under the land contract. If that occurred, plaintiff would be deemed a tenant and would continue to make monthly payments if she continued to occupy the real property.

Plaintiff failed to make a payment and T Company executed the quitclaim deed. T Company then executed a quitclaim deed.

On December 18, 2013, T company initiated an eviction proceeding against plaintiff in the district court. In that action, plaintiff and defendant entered a consent judgment under which plaintiff agreed to pay $4,033 in unpaid rent. Plaintiff did not appeal the consent judgment and eventually surrendered the real property after failing to make the payment.

Subsequently, plaintiff filed this lawsuit against defendant and alleged fraud, forgery, fraud on the court, and fraudulent inducement of the land contract. Defendant filed a motion for summary disposition, arguing that plaintiff’s claims were barred by the doctrine of res judicata.

Defendant asserted that plaintiff could have brought her fraud claims in the first lawsuit. Plaintiff argued that she was not aware of her potential fraud claims until 2015, and that she could not have brought those claims earlier.

The trial court held that plaintiff’s claims were barred by the doctrine of res judicata because plaintiff could have raised the claims in one of the earlier lawsuits.

The doctrine of res judicata is employed to prevent multiple suits litigating the same cause of action. A second action is barred when (1) the first action was decided on the merits, (2) the matter contested in the second action was or could have been resolved in the first, and (3) both actions involve the same parties.

All the elements of res judicata were present, and the trial court properly granted defendants’ motion for summary disposition based on the doctrine of res judicata.

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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.

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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