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Unambiguous personal guaranty upheld, but where guaranty subject to interpretation, court must examine facts of case

Holding that the Guaranty was ambiguous, the court affirmed the trial court's order insofar as it held 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 principle sums under the SA that came due on or after 7/30/07. However, it vacated the trial court's order insofar as it determined that Sable was not personally liable on the principle due before that date or for the time-price differential charges on the pre-7/30/07 debt. It remanded for further proceedings as to those determinations. 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. The trial court essentially found 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. The question 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. The court noted that its "finding of ambiguity extends to the question of whether Sable is a guarantor of the time-price differential (i.e., interest) accruing on" the pre-7/30/07 debt.

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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