of Claims LC No. 17-000265-MZ
Before: Swartzle, P.J., and Cavanagh and Cameron, JJ.
Donald Sullivan, Jr. (Sullivan), filed this lawsuit for
compensation based on the Wrongful Imprisonment Compensation
Act (WICA), MCL 691.1751 et seq., after his murder
conviction was vacated and the charges were dismissed.
Sullivan appeals the order of the Court of Claims granting
summary disposition in favor of defendant, the State of
Michigan, and dismissing Sullivan's case. On appeal,
Sullivan challenges the Court of Claims's determination
that he was not entitled to compensation under the WICA
because he failed to show "new evidence" that
satisfied the requirements of MCL 691.1755(1)(c). Finding no
error, we affirm.
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
1975, Sullivan was sentenced to life in prison after a jury
convicted him of first-degree felony murder for his role in
the robbery of a jewelry store and the murder of its owner. A
codefendant, Lawrence Patton, entered into a plea agreement
with the prosecution and provided trial testimony that was
the primary evidence used to support Sullivan's
years later, Patton recanted his trial testimony. He executed
two affidavits in 1981, admitting in both that he lied about
Sullivan's involvement in the robbery and murder of the
jewelry store owner. In December 1981, Sullivan filed a
motion for new trial based on Patton's recantation. In
support of his motion, Sullivan provided Patton's two
affidavits, and the trial court granted an evidentiary
hearing. Patton testified at the evidentiary hearing,
authenticated his affidavits, and reiterated that his trial
testimony offered against Sullivan was false. The prosecution
questioned Patton's veracity and argued successfully to
the trial court that Patton take a polygraph examination
administered by Michigan State Police regarding the
truthfulness of his recantation. During the polygraph
examination, Patton reaffirmed that Sullivan was not involved
in the crimes. In the opinion of the examiner, the test
results indicated that Patton was not deceptive in his
exoneration of Sullivan. Thereafter, the trial court granted
Sullivan's motion for a new trial.
prosecution, apparently unpersuaded of Sullivan's
innocence, took steps to prosecute Sullivan again for the
robbery and murder. However, after the trial court denied the
prosecution's motion to use Patton's prior trial
testimony as evidence against Sullivan for his retrial, the
prosecution conceded that "without the use of
[Patton's] previous testimony from the previous trial, we
cannot proceed at this time in this case." Accordingly,
the trial court dismissed the charges against Sullivan, and
he was released from custody.
September 2017, Sullivan filed a WICA complaint seeking
compensation for the approximate seven years that he was
imprisoned. The Court of Claims granted the State of
Michigan's motion for summary disposition and, in turn,
denied Sullivan's cross-motion for summary disposition.
In doing so, the Court of Claims concluded that Sullivan
failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence "new
evidence" that demonstrated that he did not perpetrate
the crime, which resulted in the reversal or vacation of the
charges in the judgment of conviction, and ultimately
resulted in the dismissal of the charges. MCL 691.1755(1)(c).
appeal, Sullivan argues the court erred when it granted the
State of Michigan's motion for summary disposition and
denied Sullivan's cross-motion for summary disposition.
initially note that the State of Michigan filed its motion
for summary disposition under MCR 2.116(C)(7), and Sullivan
filed his cross-motion for summary disposition under MCR
2.116(C)(7) or (C)(8). The Court of Claims, however,
specified in its order that summary disposition was granted
under MCR 2.118(C)(8) and (C)(10). Importantly, a tort action
against a governmental entity generally raises two issues:
(1) whether the plaintiff has pled in avoidance of
governmental immunity, and (2) whether the plaintiff can
establish the elements of his or her claim. Glancy v City
of Roseville, 457 Mich. 580, 588; 577 N.W.2d 897 (1998).
We do not construe the State of Michigan's motion as one
brought under MCR 2.116(C)(7) because Sullivan's claim
concerns whether he can establish the elements under the
WICA. "A trial court is not necessarily constrained by
the subrule under which a party moves for summary
disposition." Computer Network, Inc v AM Gen
Corp, 265 Mich.App. 309, 312; 696 N.W.2d 49 (2005).
Furthermore, because the court ruled on the motion for
summary disposition before the commencement of discovery, we
analyze the motions for summary dispositions under MCR
court's decision regarding a motion for summary
disposition is reviewed de novo. Old Kent Bank v Kal
Kustom, Inc, 255 Mich.App. 524, 528; 660 N.W.2d 384
(2003). A motion brought under MCR 2.116(C)(8) tests the
legal sufficiency of the complaint solely on the basis of the
pleadings. Dalley v Dykema Gossett PLLC, 287
Mich.App. 296, 304; 788 N.W.2d 679 (2010). "When
deciding a motion under (C)(8), this Court accepts all
well-pleaded factual allegations as true and construes them
in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party."
Id. at 304-305.
review de novo issues of statutory interpretation. In re
Mich. Cable Telecom Ass'n Complaint v Mich. Pub Serv
Comm, 239 Mich.App. 686, 690; 609 N.W.2d 854 (2000).
When interpreting a statute, our goal "is to ascertain
and give effect to the intent of the Legislature."
Portelli v IR Constr Prod Co, Inc, 218 Mich.App.
591, 606; 554 N.W.2d 591 (1996). Undefined terms in a statute
"must be given their plain and ordinary meanings, and it
is proper to consult a dictionary for definitions."
Halloran v Bhan, 470 Mich. 572, 578; 683 N.W.2d 129
(2004). This Court must avoid interpreting a statute ...