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PIP, SSI benefits cases to be heard during December arguments

By: Bridgetower Media Newswires//December 4, 2023//

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PIP, SSI benefits cases to be heard during December arguments

By: Bridgetower Media Newswires//December 4, 2023//

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Cases tackling PIP benefits and what an insurer must pay for services provided by a court-appointed guardian are among the dozen cases to be heard during December oral argument.

The Michigan Supreme Court will convene at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 6 on the sixth floor of the Hall of Justice in Lansing.

The information below is based on case summaries provided by the courts. Michigan Lawyers Weekly numbers are provided where possible. The full schedule and further details on the cases can be found here.

In re Forfeiture of 2006 Saturn Ion — Argument has been ordered to address whether a genuine issue of material fact exists about whether the claimant’s 2006 Saturn Ion was, on June 24, 2019, “used or intended for use, to transport, or in any manner to facilitate the transportation, for the purpose of sale or receipt of [a controlled substance].”  (emphasis added).

People v. Stephen Butka — Oral argument will address if the Court of Appeals correctly defined “public welfare” under former MCL 780.621(14), 2016 PA 336;  and if the trial court abused its discretion when it concluded that it wasn’t “consistent with the public welfare” to set aside the defendant’s conviction based solely on victim statements in opposition to the expungement.

In re Guardianship of Anna-Marie Margaret Bazakis (MiLW 07-105630) — Christy Bomba and Andrew Bazakis, who are divorced, are the parents and coguardians of AM, their developmentally disabled adult daughter. Bomba successfully applied for Social Security Disability benefits for AM, and was made AM’s representative payee. Bazakis petitioned the probate court to obtain information from Bomba about AM’s Supplemental Security Income, or SSI benefits.

The probate court entered an order requiring that the Social Security Administration be informed of the parties’ coguardianship status and that AM’s SSI benefits be split equally between Bomba and Bazakis.  Bazakis then filed a motion to compel Bomba’s compliance with the order. Bomba was ordered to create a new bank account for AM  and give Bazakis access, and to make all of AM’s bank accounts joint with both Bomba and Bazakis. Bomba was also ordered to provide Bazakis with 50% of AM’s monthly SSI benefits.

In a published decision, the Court of Appeals reversed regarding the allocation of AM’s SSI benefits, holding that the Social Security Act preempts the probate court’s jurisdiction to require Bomba to pay half of AM’s monthly SSI benefits to Bazakis.

Argument will address two issued: (1) whether the probate court’s order requires Bomba to place AM’s social security benefits into a joint account held by both Bomba and Bazakis; and (2) if so, whether such order is prohibited by principles of federal preemption.

Stuth v. Home-Owners Insurance Co. (MiLW 08-106012) — John Stuth veered off the road on his motorcycle and was injured. He claimed he took evasive action to avoid a van that had crossed the first yellow line of a double yellow line. Stuth sought personal protection insurance, or PIP, benefits from his no-fault insurer, Home-Owners Insurance Company, on the basis that his injuries arose out of the operation of a motor vehicle — the van.

After a bench trial, the Washtenaw County Circuit Court held that Stuth was entitled to PIP benefits because the van caused his injuries. But a divided Court of Appeals reversed in an unpublished opinion. The majority concluded that there wasn’t a sufficient causal connection between the van’s actions and the plaintiff’s injuries.

Argument will address if the plaintiff’s injuries arose out of the operation or use of a motor vehicle under MCL 500.3105(1), including whether there was a sufficient causal connection between the van that the plaintiff encountered and his injuries to entitle him to PIP benefits.

Wednesday, Dec. 6 afternoon session

People v. Anthony Hull; People v. Brandi Hull — After a jury trial, Brandi and Anthony Hull were convicted of resisting and obstructing a police officer and the Court of Appeals affirmed in an unpublished opinion.

Oral argument will address whether a person has a right to resist arrest where an arresting officer’s actions cause the person to reasonably believe the arrest is unlawful and whether the prosecution presented enough evidence that the Hulls resisted, obstructed or opposed a police officer

The parties in Mr. Hull’s case will address if a person may aid another in resisting an unlawful arrest. In Ms. Hull’s case, the parties shall address whether counsel was ineffective for failing to request that the jury be instructed that a person has a right to resist arrest where an arresting officer’s actions cause the person to reasonably believe the arrest is unlawful.

People v. Jessica Hurley — Argument will address whether a verdict may be impeached based on juror misconduct if the misconduct occurred prior to the jury’s deliberative process, and whether there may be cases of “juror bias so extreme that, almost by definition, the jury trial right has been abridged” and, if so, whether that exception applies here.

Pegasus Wind, LLC v. Tuscola County (MiLW 07-105264) — This case involves Pegasus Wind’s variance applications for the construction of eight wind turbines that allegedly would violate the height limitations and the minimum descent requirements set forth in the Tuscola Area Airport Zoning Ordinance. The Tuscola Area Airport Zoning Board of Appeals, or AZBA, denied the request for the eight variances; the Tuscola Circuit Court affirmed.

In a 2-1 published decision, the Court of Appeals reversed in part and remanded for further proceedings.

Argument will address whether the appeals court erred in holding that: 1) the requirement of showing unique circumstances inherent in the property is only an element of unnecessary hardship, not an element of practical difficulty; 2) the self-created hardship rule only applies when the applicant has partitioned, subdivided, or physically altered the property; and 3) the AZBA’s decision was not supported by competent, material, and substantial evidence.

Thursday, Dec. 7 morning session

Mothering Justice v. Attorney General (MiLW 07-106359) — Two ballot initiative committees submitted statutory initiatives in 2018 to the Secretary of State. Among other things, the initiatives would increase Michigan’s minimum hourly wage and allow employees to earn paid sick leave from their employers.

The legislature passed both as 2018 PA 337 and 2018 PA 338 within the 40-session-day window. In that same session, however, the legislature passed and then-Gov. Rick Snyder signed 2018 PA 368 and 2018 PA 369, which amended both proposals by delaying the minimum wage increase, restricting eligibility to paid sick time, and cutting the amount of paid sick time that could be earned.

The plaintiffs filed suit in 2021, claiming the Legislature violated art 2, § 9 when it enacted 2018 PA 337 and 2018 PA 338 but then amended them in the same legislative session by enacting 2018 PA 368 and 2018 PA 369. Attorney General Dana Nessel indicated her agreement with the plaintiffs’ position, so the plaintiffs added the State of Michigan as a defendant.

The Court of Claims granted the plaintiffs’ and the Attorney General’s motions for summary disposition, and denied the State of Michigan’s motion. The court voided 2018 PA 368 and 2018 PA 369 and held that 2018 PA 337 and 2018 PA 338 remained in effect. However, it stayed its ruling until Feb. 19, 2023.

In a Jan. 26, 2023 published opinion, the Court of Appeals reversed and remanded the matter to the Court of Claims for entry of summary disposition in favor of the state.

Argument will address whether the legislature violated art 2, § 9 of the Michigan Constitution of 1963 when it enacted 2018 PA 337 and 2018 PA 338 and then amended those laws in the same legislative session by enacting 2018 PA 368 and 2018 PA 369 and, if so, whether 2018 PA 337 and 2018 PA 338 remain in effect.

In re Guardianship of Mary Ann Malloy; In re Guardianship of Dana Jenkins (MiLW 07-106006) — The cases involve two different individuals subject to guardianship because of two different motor vehicle accidents. Darren Findling is the court-appointed guardian of the wards, each of whom receives benefits under the no-fault act from Auto-Owners Insurance Company.

Findling charged Auto-Owners for a variety of services performed by himself and his firm’s employees on behalf of each ward. Auto-Owners refused to pay for services that weren’t personally performed by Findling in the absence of proof of compliance with MCL 700.5103(1), which sets forth the requirements for delegating a guardian’s powers. Competing motions for partial summary disposition were filed. The probate court’s decision favored Findling.

After the Court of Appeals denied Auto-Owners’ interlocutory application for leave to appeal, the Supreme Court remanded the case to the appeals court for consideration as on leave granted.  In a published decision, the appellate court affirmed in part, reversed in part and remanded the case to the probate court for further proceedings.

Oral argument will address whether the appeals court properly construed and applied the relevant provisions of the Estates and Protected Individuals Code in determining that there is a genuine issue of material fact whether the guardianship services provided by Findling and his law firm were “lawfully rendered” so as to be payable under MCL 500.3107 of the no fault act.

People v. Steven Montez — Argument will address whether references to acquitted conduct in the defendant’s presentence investigation report, or PSIR, violated his right not to be sentenced on the basis of conduct of which he was acquitted and whether the defendant’s trial attorney rendered ineffective assistance by failing to object to the references to acquitted conduct in the PSIR.

Mamie Graziano v. Jonathan Brater (MiLW 07-105691) — Oral argument will address several key issues, including: “(1) whether the lower courts correctly interpreted MCL 168.479 as divesting the Court of Claims of subject matter jurisdiction over a challenge to a ‘determination made by the board of state canvassers regarding the sufficiency or insufficiency of an initiative petition’; (2) whether the Court of Claims erred by reframing Count I of the plaintiffs’ complaint as a challenge that is subject to MCL 168.479(2); (3) if MCL 168.479 does divest the Court of Claims of subject matter jurisdiction over Count I of the plaintiffs’ complaint, whether the Court of Appeals erred by declining to review the Court of Claims’ determination that it retained jurisdiction over Count II of the complaint and its resolution of the plaintiffs’ constitutional challenge to the application of MCL 168.479; and (4) if MCL 168.479 does divest the Court of Claims of subject matter jurisdiction, whether the statute contravenes the separation of powers under Const 1963, art 3, § 2, the exclusive powers of this Court under Const 1963, art 6, §§ 4-5, or the due process protections afforded by Const 1963, art 1, § 17 and art 6, § 28.”

People v. Roosevelt Johnson — Argument will address whether the Court of Appeals erred when it affirmed the assignment of 10 points to OV 3 for prophylactic treatment following a sexual assault, and in particular whether the holding in People v. Barnes conflicts with the holding in People v Rosa.

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