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Dawley v. Hall

Court of Appeals of Michigan

May 9, 2017

JOANNE D. DAWLEY, individually and as personal representative of the ESTATE OF JAMES ARMOUR II, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
RODNEY W. HALL, Defendant-Appellee.

         Mason Circuit Court LC No. 15-000189-NI

          Before: Borrello, P.J., and Wilder and Swartzle, JJ.

          SWARTZLE, J.

         A limited liability company owns a business located in a Michigan county. A member of the limited liability company is active in the operation of the business during certain months of the year, but the member otherwise resides out-of-state. Are the facts of (1) membership and (2) active operation sufficient to establish that the member personally "conducts business" in the county for purposes of venue?

         The short answer is No.

         I. BACKGROUND

         In July 2013, defendant-appellee Rodney Hall and James Armour II were in a motor vehicle collision in Lake County. Police ticketed Hall for failing to yield at a stop sign. Armour was injured during the collision, and he subsequently died, allegedly as a result of the injuries. Armour's wife, plaintiff-appellant Joanne Dawley, sued Hall for various tort claims on her own behalf as well as on behalf of Armour's estate.

         With respect to where to file the lawsuit, neither Dawley nor Hall was a resident of Lake County-Dawley resided in Wayne County with her husband and Hall resided in New Mexico. Apparently concluding that Hall neither had a place of business nor conducted business in a Michigan county, Dawley sued Hall in Wayne County under MCL 600.1621(b). Hall immediately moved to transfer venue to Lake County, as the site of the collision, or Mason County, purportedly where he conducted business on behalf of Barothy Lodge, a resort property in that county. Wayne Circuit Court transferred venue to Mason County.

         The parties engaged in discovery after the lawsuit was transferred to Mason County. Information exchanged in discovery made clear that Hall did not personally own Barothy Lodge. Instead, the resort is owned by Hall Investments, LLC, a Michigan limited liability company, and Hall is a member of the company along with two brothers and six grandchildren. (The company also owns an aluminum factory in Hastings, Michigan.) Hall testified that he "runs" the resort during five to six months a year, but that the resort also has full-time managers who live and work there year round. When at the resort, Hall's normal daily routine is to check the mail at the office, to see if there are any "fires to put out, " and to deal with any contractors on-site as well as "guest-related issues." When he got into the collision with Armour, Hall was returning from a musical festival that he attended on behalf of Barothy Lodge. Thus, the record shows that, while Hall did not personally own any part of Barothy Lodge, he was a member of the limited liability company that owned the resort and he was involved in the operations of the resort during part of the year.

         Dawley moved to return the lawsuit to Wayne County, arguing that Hall did not conduct business in Mason County. (Dawley did not seek alternative relief via a transfer to Lake County.) Mason Circuit Court denied the motion, concluding that Hall's actions on behalf of Hall Investments, LLC constituted his conducting business within the county for purposes of MCL 600.1621(a). We granted Dawley's request for an interlocutory appeal, and Mason Circuit Court stayed the action pending our decision.

         II. ANALYSIS

         A. Mason Circuit Court Had Jurisdiction on the Motion to Transfer

         To clear the brush, we first address Hall's argument that Mason Circuit Court did not have jurisdiction to hear Dawley's motion to transfer. According to Hall, Dawley instead should have moved for reconsideration before Wayne Circuit Court of the original order transferring the lawsuit to Mason Circuit Court. The argument is without merit.

         Once an action is transferred from one circuit court to another, the transferee court has "full jurisdiction of the action as though the action had been originally commenced therein, " MCL 600.1651, and, as a consequence, "the transferor court has none, " Frankfurth v Detroit Med Ctr, 297 Mich.App. 654, 658; 825 N.W.2d 353 (2012). "Any motion for rehearing or reconsideration would have to be heard by whichever court has jurisdiction over the action at the time the motion ...


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