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Fairley v. Dep't of Correction

Supreme Court of Michigan

June 5, 2015

MICHELLE RENEE FAIRLEY, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, Defendant-Appellant. LORI L. STONE, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
MICHIGAN STATE POLICE, Defendant-Appellant

For MICHELLE RENEE FAIRLEY, Retired, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE (149722): DAVID E CHRISTENSEN, SOUTHFIELD, MI; STEVEN A HICKS, LANSING, MI; STEVEN A HICKS, LANSING, MI.

For DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, Attorney General, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT (149722): JOSEPH T FROEHLICH, LANSING MI.

For LORI L STONE, Retired, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT (149940): JOHN KENNETH KLINE, ANN ARBOR, MI.

For DEPARTMENT OF STATE POLICE, Attorney General, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE (149940): JOSEPH T FROEHLICH, LANSING MI.

Justices: Stephen J. Markman, Mary Beth Kelly, Brian K. Zahra, Bridget M. McCormack, David F. Viviano, Richard H. Bernstein.

Page 130

[497 Mich. 292] BEFORE THE ENTIRE BENCH

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Robert P. Young, Jr., Chief Justice.

We consider in these consolidated cases whether a claimant's failure to comply with the notice verification requirements of MCL 600.6431 provides a complete defense in an action against the state or one of its departments. We conclude that a notice lacking any indication that it was signed and verified before an officer authorized to administer oaths is defective and, contrary to the Court of Appeals' conclusion, is a complete defense that may be raised at any time by a defendant entitled to governmental immunity. Accordingly, and in lieu of granting leave to appeal, we reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals in both Stone v Michigan State Police and Fairley v Department of Corrections

Page 131

and remand the cases to the Court of Claims for reinstatement of the order granting defendant's motion for summary disposition in the former and for entry of an order granting defendant's motion for summary disposition in the latter.

The purpose of MCL 600.6431 is to establish those conditions precedent to pursuing a claim against the state. One of these conditions provides:

No claim may be maintained against the state unless the claimant, within 1 year after such claim has accrued, files in the office of the clerk of the court of claims either a written claim or a written notice of intention to file a claim against the state or any of its departments, commissions, boards, institutions, arms or agencies, stating the time when and the place where such claim arose and in detail [497 Mich. 293] the nature of the same and of the items of damage alleged or claimed to have been sustained, which claim or notice shall be signed and verified by the claimant before an officer authorized to administer oaths. [MCL 600.6431(1).]

Plainly, then, unless a claimant's notice is " signed and verified by the claimant before an officer authorized to administer oaths," a claim cannot proceed against the state. In both cases here, plaintiffs claim that nothing in the statute requires anyone other than the claimant to sign the notice and successfully argued in the Court of Appeals that defendants' arguments for summary disposition regarding notice were waived because the plaintiffs' alleged noncompliance with the statutory notice requirements was an affirmative defense that was not timely pleaded. Alternatively, defendants, both state agencies entitled to governmental immunity unless an exception applies, contend that complainants must " strictly" comply with the notice requirements in order to proceed. We conclude that failing to indicate anywhere on or with ...


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