Circuit Court LC No. 16-000110-NM
Before: Talbot, C.J., and O'Connell and O'Brien, JJ.
Sarah Lynn Nortley, appeals as of right the trial court's
grant of defendants' motion for summary disposition
pursuant to MCR 2.116(C)(7) (statute of limitations). Nortley
challenges the trial court's conclusion that the six-year
statutory period of repose barred her claim because the
statute of repose went into effect after her claim accrued.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
retained Dennis Hurst, of the law firm Dennis Hurst &
Associates, in August 2008 to represent her in a divorce
proceeding. The judgment of divorce, entered on June 12,
2009, contained a provision terminating representation 21
days after the date of entry of the judgment.
divorce became final 11 days before the tenth anniversary of
the marriage. A person can claim social security benefits
through a former spouse if the marriage lasted ten years or
more. Nortley alleged that she learned about
this rule on September 5, 2015, during a conversation with
brought a legal malpractice claim against defendants on
January 15, 2016. Nortley contended that defendants failed to
advise her that social security benefits were only available
to a former spouse if the marriage lasted ten years or more.
Hurst and the law firm denied the allegations of malpractice,
maintaining that they fully advised Nortley about all aspects
of the divorce. Defendant Michael Rosenthal answered
separately to deny the allegations because he only attended
one court hearing on behalf of Hurst and did not participate
in advising Nortley about the divorce.
moved for summary disposition under MCR 2.116(C)(7), arguing
that two statutes of limitations, MCL 600.5805(1) and (6) and
MCL 600.5838(2), and a statute of repose, MCL 600.5838b,
barred Nortley's malpractice claim. Nortley opposed the
motion, arguing that she brought the action within the
statutory period of limitations because she filed it within
six months of discovering the basis for the claim. Nortley
contested defendants' invocation of the statute of repose
because it went into effect after the cause of action accrued
and did not apply retroactively. Finally, Nortley argued,
retroactive application of the statute of repose violated her
right to due process because the statutory period expired
before she knew about the basis of the malpractice claim. The
trial court concluded that the statute of repose barred
Nortley's claim and granted defendants' motion for
STANDARD OF REVIEW
review de novo a trial court's decision to grant summary
disposition. Nuculovic v Hill, 287 Mich.App. 58, 61;
783 N.W.2d 124 (2010). This Court also reviews de novo the
trial court's application of a statute of limitations,
Stephens v Worden Ins Agency, LLC, 307 Mich.App.
220, 227; 859 N.W.2d 723 (2014), and the constitutionality of
a statute, Stevenson v Reese, 239 Mich.App. 513,
516; 609 N.W.2d 195 (2000).
disposition under MCR 2.116(C)(7) is appropriate when a
statute of limitations bars the claim. This Court accepts
plaintiff's allegations as true and considers all
admissible evidence to decide whether it presents a genuine
issue of material fact. Nuculovic, 287 Mich.App. at
primary goal of statutory interpretation is to effectuate the
Legislature's intent by applying the plain language of
the statute. Klooster v City of Charlevoix, 488
Mich. 289, 296; 795 N.W.2d 578 (2011). If the statute is
clear and unambiguous, we apply it as written. USAA Ins
Co v Houston Gen Ins Co, 220 Mich.App. 386; 389; 559
N.W.2d 98 (1996). Otherwise, if the statute is ambiguous,
"judicial construction is appropriate."
Id. at 389-390. This Court construes statutes of
limitations and repose to promote the policy of ...