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Tenant entitled to damages plus attorney fees in wrongful eviction case

The court held that the trial court properly awarded case evaluation sanctions for the defendant-landlord in the amount of $8,600 plus interest. Plaintiff sued defendant for wrongful eviction after defendant ordered him to vacate the premises and later removed and disposed of his personal belongings and changed the locks. The case evaluators unanimously recommended an award of $3,500 for plaintiff. Defendant accepted, but plaintiff rejected. The trial court found that plaintiff had not been ejected from the premises "by force" within the meaning of MCL 600.2918, and granted summary disposition for defendant. The trial court then awarded case evaluation sanctions for defendant in the amount of $8,600 plus interest. On appeal, the court rejected plaintiff's argument that the award of case evaluation sanctions was improper because the 34.4 hours of legal services claimed by defendant were not "necessitated" by plaintiff's rejection of the case evaluation award within the meaning of MCR 2.403(O)(6)(b). It found that it was "apparent that the new motion and brief required substantial additional legal work and were not merely restatements of the original motion and brief." It concluded that the "34.4 hours of legal services were both reasonable and necessitated by plaintiff's rejection of case evaluation in August 2012." The court also rejected his argument that the trial court erred by failing to apply the interest-of-justice exception of MCR 2.403(O)(11), finding that the "circumstances were not sufficiently unusual to warrant the circuit court's application of the interest-of-justice exception. Quite the contrary, there was a strong interest in having the present dispute settled by the parties." Finally, the court rejected his argument that the trial court failed to comply with the requirements of MCR 2.602(B) when it granted summary disposition in favor of defendant. "Taking into account the intervening weekend, as well as the [trial court's] demanding schedule, we simply cannot conclude that the court failed to comply with MCR 2.602(B)(1). Regardless, any error in failing to comply with the exact timing requirements of MCR 2.602(B)(1) was harmless and did not result in substantial injustice to plaintiff." Affirmed.

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