A. Swartzle Presiding Judge, David H. Sawyer, Amy Ronayne
Court's own motion, the January 3, 2019 opinion is hereby
AMENDED to correct nonsubstantive errors in Sections I, III,
and V of the opinion.
Reporter of Decisions is DIRECTED to replace the second full
paragraph on page 3 of the opinion with:
The magistrate resolved the matter of the $350, 000 recovery,
which is not at issue in this appeal. The magistrate also
determined that the VPA did in fact contain a mathematical
error but that he lacked equitable jurisdiction and therefore
could not modify the parties' agreement. However, the
magistrate also stated that he would have modified the
agreement if he had the power to do so and that "the
correct Franges numbers to be applied... would be a
future weekly rate of $264.53 for 131.7464 weeks into the
future before resumption of full weekly benefits." On
appeal, the MCAC affirmed the magistrate's ruling that he
lacked equitable power or authority to modify the VPA. The
MCAC declined to address the magistrate's
"dicta" detailing how he would have modified the
VPA given the power to do so. Nevertheless, the MCAC did
observe that the facts in the matter were essentially
III of the released opinion is to be replaced with the
following amended Section III:
EQUITABLE POWERS OF WORKERS' COMPENSATION MAGISTRATES
primary issue presented on appeal is whether the MCAC
correctly determined that the magistrate lacked the equitable
power necessary to modify the VPA. A contract is legally
enforceable even if procured by fraud or mistake, and thus
"plenary relief traditionally rests exclusively in
equity . .. ." Solo v. Chrysler Corp (On
Rehearing), 408 Mich. 345, 352; 292 N.W.2d 438 (1980).
We conclude that the MCAC correctly determined that the
magistrate lacked equitable jurisdiction and therefore lacked
the power to modify the VPA.
ago, we recognized that the right to have equity
controversies dealt with by equitable methods is as sacred as
the right of trial by jury." Madugula v.
Taub, 496 Mich. 685, 705; 853 N.W.2d 75 (2014)
(quotation marks, citation, and brackets omitted). "That
is, '[t]he cognizance of equitable questions belongs to
the judiciary as a part of the judicial power, and under our
Constitution must remain vested where it always has been
vested heretofore.'" Id., quoting Brown
v. Buck, 75 Mich. 274, 285; 42 N.W. 827 (1889). Thus, an
administrative agency possesses the jurisdiction to address
any questions within its remit, but "it must be borne in
mind that it is an administrative tribunal only and not a
court possessing general equitable and legal powers."
Mich Mut Liability Co v. Baker, 295 Mich. 237, 242;
294 N.W. 168 (1940) (quotation marks and citation omitted).
"In the absence of an express legislative conferral of
authority, an administrative agency generally lacks the
powers of a court of equity." Delke v.
Scheuren, 185 Mich.App. 326, 332; 460 N.W.2d 324 (1990).
Court has specifically observed that the MCAC's
predecessor, the former Bureau of Workmen's Compensation,
"lack[ed] the requisite jurisdiction of a court of
equity to undertake the task of reformation of [an] insurance
policy." Auto-Owners Ins Co v. Elchuk, 103
Mich.App. 542, 546; 303 N.W.2d 35 (1981), relying on
Baker and its progeny. Elchuk was also
consistent with Scott v Grow, 301 Mich.
226; 3 N.W.2d 254 (1942), in which our Supreme Court observed
that" 'jurisdiction to reform written
agreements'" " 'is exclusively vested in
courts of equity*" and not in courts of law.
Scott, 301 Mich. at 238-239, quoting Bush v.
Merriman, 87 Mich. 260, 268; 49 N.W. 567 (1891).
"Equity has exclusive jurisdiction to rescind an
agreement on the ground of mutual mistake."
Solo, 408 Mich. at 353. Consequently, it is well
established that the relief sought in this matter,
modification of a contract, is strictly equitable in nature,
and the magistrate, as a member of an administrative
tribunal, had no equitable jurisdiction.
some confusion may have resulted from this Court's
observation that "[w]hile the [MCAC] has no equitable
jurisdiction, it is well established that it may
apply equitable principles in appropriate instances
to further the purposes of the [WDCA]." Lulgjuraj v
Chrysler Corp, 185 Mich.App. 539, 544-545; 463 N.W.2d
152 (1990) (emphasis added). To the extent Lulgjuraj
can be understood to suggest that the MCAC may exercise
equitable powers, such as the power to reform a contract,
Lulgjuraj unambiguously conflicts with
well-established and thoroughly settled caselaw from our
Supreme Court to the contrary. Our Supreme Court has
explained that equitable jurisdiction is not precisely the
same as equitable relief and that parties sometimes conflate
"equity jurisdiction with equity jurisprudence."
Solo, 408 Mich. at 353. Nevertheless, "[e]quity
has exclusive jurisdiction to rescind an agreement on the
ground of mutual mistake." Id. Because
Lulgjuraj was decided before November 1, 1990, it is
not strictly binding pursuant to MCR 7.2l5(J)(1), and even if
it were, we would be required to ignore it in favor of any
conflicting Supreme Court precedent. See Paige v.
City of Sterling Hts, 476 Mich. 495, 524; 720 N.W.2d
summary, the MCAC correctly determined that the magistrate
lacked equitable jurisdiction and therefore lacked the power
to reform or modify the VPA.
first sentence in Section V is to be replaced with the
We affirm the MCAC's conclusions that modifying the VPA
is equitable in nature and that the magistrate lacked the