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O'Leary v. O'Leary

Court of Appeals of Michigan

October 10, 2017

KRISTOPHER S. O'LEARY, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
CHRISTINE A. O'LEARY, Defendant-Appellee.

         Circuit Court LC No. 02-025820-DM

          Before: Shapiro, P.J., and Hoekstra and M. J. Kelly, JJ.

          PER CURIAM.

         In this action to enforce a judgment of divorce, the trial court granted summary disposition to defendant under MCR 2.116(C)(7) based on the conclusion that plaintiff's claim was time barred by MCL 600.5809(3). Plaintiff filed a delayed application for leave to appeal, which we granted.[1] Because plaintiff's claim accrued when the marital home sold in 2009, his motion to enforce the terms of the judgement of divorce in 2015 was not time barred. Consequently, we reverse the dismissal of plaintiff's claim and remand for further proceedings.

         The parties married in 1996, and their judgment of divorce entered on July 24, 2003. At the time of their divorce, the parties owned a mobile home together in Adrian, Michigan. With regard to this marital home, the judgment of divorce stated:

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that Plaintiff and Defendant shall continue to own the martial home . . . as tenants in common. The house is to be continuously offered for sale until sold. Defendant shall make the house and lot payments as long as she resides in the home. At such time as Defendant moves or the house is sold, the indebtedness or profit shall be shared equally.

         Defendant moved out of the home in September of 2007. On October 7, 2009, following a motion by defendant to enforce the judgment of divorce, the trial court entered an order against plaintiff, requiring him to pay defendant the sum of $5, 927, which represented plaintiff's share of the mobile home and lot rental payments for the time period after defendant vacated the property. In this order, the trial court also stated that "all other orders not in direct conflict herein shall remain in full force and effect."

         The mobile home eventually sold on October 21, 2009; but, the sale did not cover the balance owing on the loan. After the sale, the parties had a deficiency of $37, 998.35. According to plaintiff, between the sale of the home and January of 2015, he paid $24, 543.24 toward the outstanding balance on the loan, while defendant paid nothing.

         On May 4, 2015, plaintiff filed a motion to enforce the judgment of divorce. In particular, plaintiff argued that, under the terms of the judgment of divorce, defendant bore equal responsibility for the outstanding indebtedness on the loan balance following the sale of the property. Plaintiff requested an order specifying that defendant and plaintiff were each responsible for $18, 999.17. He also sought payment from defendant for the amount he had paid in excess of his liability, an amount totaling $5, 544.06.

         Defendant filed an answer to plaintiff's motion, and she also filed a motion for summary disposition. Relevant to the present appeal, defendant asserted that plaintiff's motion to enforce the judgment of divorce was time barred by the 10-year statute of limitations found in MCL 600.5809(3) because the judgment of divorce entered in 2003 and plaintiff did not bring his motion to enforce the judgment until 2015. According to defendant, within the 10-year time period, plaintiff should have sought to extend the divorce judgment by seeking a new judgment or decree under MCL 600.5809(3), which plaintiff did not do. In response to defendant's motion for summary disposition, plaintiff argued that his claim against defendant for half of the indebtedness on the home accrued when the home sold in 2009, meaning that the 10-year statute of limitations expired in 2019 and his claim was timely filed in 2015. Alternatively, plaintiff contended that the motion to enforce the judgment filed by defendant in 2009 "effectively reset the clock on the statute of limitations" such that plaintiff's claim in 2015 was timely under the "renewed" judgment of divorce.

         Following a hearing, the trial court granted summary disposition to defendant, concluding that plaintiff's claim was time barred by the 10-year statute of limitations in MCL 600.5809(3) because the judgment of divorced entered in 2003 and plaintiff did not seek to enforce the judgment until 2015. Plaintiff then filed a delayed application for leave to appeal in this Court, which we granted.

         On appeal, the only issue before us is whether plaintiff's motion to enforce the judgment of divorce was timely. The parties agree that plaintiff's claim is subject to the 10-year statute of limitations set forth in MCL 600.5809(3), but they disagree about when the limitations period began to run. Plaintiff argues that his claim accrued, and the limitations period began to run, when the home sold in 2009, making his motion to enforce the judgment in 2015 timely. In contrast, defendant contends that the limitations period began to run when the divorce judgment was rendered in 2003 and that, in the absence of an action for a new judgment, the limitations period expired in 2013, meaning that plaintiff's claim in 2015 was untimely.

         We review de novo a trial court's decision to grant a motion for summary disposition. Anzaldua v Neogen Corp, 292 Mich.App. 626, 629; 808 N.W.2d 804 (2011). If a claim is time- barred, summary disposition is properly granted under MCR 2.116(C)(7). Prins v Mich. State Police, 291 Mich.App. 586, 589; 805 N.W.2d 619 (2011). When the underlying facts are not disputed, whether a claim is time barred by a period of limitations is a question of law that this Court reviews de novo. Titan Ins Co v Farmers Ins Exch, 241 Mich.App. 258, 260; 615 N.W.2d 774 (2000).

         Likewise, we also review de novo questions of statutory interpretation. White v Taylor Distrib Co, Inc, 275 Mich.App. 615, 620; 739 N.W.2d 132 (2007). Statutory interpretation begins with the plain language of the statute. Driver v Naini, 490 Mich. 239, 247; 802 N.W.2d 311 (2011). "We read the statutory language in context and as a whole, considering the plain and ordinary meaning of every word." Hamed v Wayne Co, 490 Mich. 1, 8; 803 N.W.2d 237 (2011). "When the language is clear and ...


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