Circuit Court LC No. 17-012847-CB
Before: K. F. Kelly, P.J., and Tukel and Redford, JJ.
putative class action primarily alleging violations of the
Social Security Number Privacy Act (SSNPA), MCL 445.81 et
seq., plaintiffs appeal as of right the trial court's
order dismissing their complaint without prejudice. We
BACKGROUND FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
allege in their complaint they discovered defendant listed
the first five digits of their social security numbers on the
"public records portal" of a webpage owned by
defendant available only to subscribers. Plaintiffs,
believing such actions by defendant violated the SSNPA,
submitted a written demand letter to defendant, requesting
removal of the information and payment of $5, 000. Plaintiffs
did not allege any actual damages or harm in the letter but
requested $5, 000 under MCL 445.86(2) because it permitted
collection of $1, 000 per plaintiff in statutory damages and
reasonable attorney fees, which plaintiffs calculated at $3,
000. Defendant eventually denied any violation of the SSNPA
and refused to pay the requested damages. Plaintiffs
responded with this litigation in which they alleged
violations of the SSNPA, invasion of privacy, and ordinary
of answering the complaint, defendant moved for summary
disposition under MCR 2.116(C)(8). Defendant argued that
plaintiffs failed to plead actual damages and failed to
comport with the presuit written demand procedure under MCL
445.86(2), which required a description and proof of the
actual damages suffered. Defendant argued further that
plaintiffs could not establish that defendant publicly
displayed five digits of their social security numbers as
defined under MCL 445.82(d). Defendant also made other
arguments not relevant in this appeal regarding
plaintiffs' alleged failures to plead a claim under the
SSNPA. Respecting plaintiffs' alleged torts, defendant
argued that those claims required plaintiffs to have pleaded
some actual present injury to survive summary disposition,
which plaintiffs did not do. Defendant also raised an array
of other arguments regarding plaintiffs' tort claims that
are not relevant to this appeal.
countered that the SSNPA allowed them to elect statutory
damages of $1, 000 as an alternative to pleading and proving
actual damages. Plaintiffs also asserted that they generally
plead injuries related to their tort claims sufficient to
survive summary disposition under the MCR 2.116(C)(8)
standard. The trial court agreed with defendant that
plaintiffs failed to properly plead as required by the SSNPA
and opined that defendant had not publicly displayed the
first five digits of their social security numbers. The trial
court granted defendant's motion for summary disposition
and dismissed plaintiffs' complaint without prejudice.
This appeal followed. For the reasons set forth below, we
STANDARD OF REVIEW
review de novo a circuit court's summary disposition
decision. Dalley v Dykema Gossett, 287 Mich.App.
296, 304; 788 N.W.2d 679 (2010). "A court may grant
summary disposition under MCR 2.116(C)(8) if the opposing
party has failed to state a claim on which relief can be
granted." Id. (quotation marks and brackets
omitted). "A motion brought under subrule (C)(8) tests
the legal sufficiency of the complaint solely on the basis of
the pleadings." Id. (citation omitted). All
well-pleaded factual allegations are accepted as true and
construed in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party.
Id. at 304-305. "Summary disposition on the
basis of subrule (C)(8) should be granted only when the claim
is so clearly unenforceable as a matter of law that no
factual development could possibly justify a right of
recovery." Id. at 305 (quotation marks
omitted). "Questions of statutory interpretation are
also reviewed de novo." Rowland v Washtenaw Co Road
Comm, 477 Mich. 197, 202; 731 N.W.2d 41 (2007).
first argue that the trial court erroneously interpreted the
SSNPA to require proof of actual damages. We disagree.
issue requires us to engage in statutory interpretation.
"When construing a statute, this Court's primary
goal is to give effect to the intent of the Legislature. We
begin by construing the language of the statute itself. When
the language is unambiguous, we give the words their plain
meaning and apply the statute as written." Id.
(citation omitted). We must examine the statute as a whole,
reading individual words and phrases in the context of the
entire legislative scheme." Ally Fin Inc v State
Treasurer, 502 Mich. 484, 493; 918 N.W.2d 662 (2018)
(quotation marks omitted). "In doing so, we consider the
entire text, in view of its structure and of the physical and
logical relation of its many parts." Id.
(quotation marks and citation omitted). Proper statutory
interpretation requires: (1) reading the statute as a whole,
(2) reading its words and phrases in the context of the
entire legislative scheme, (3) while considering both the
plain meaning of the critical words and phrases along with
their placement and purpose within the statutory scheme, and
(4) interpreting the statutory provisions in harmony with the
entire statutory scheme. Bush v Shabahang, 484 Mich.
156, 167; 772 N.W.2d 272 (2009). "If the language is
clear and unambiguous, the plain meaning of the statute
reflects the legislative intent and judicial construction is
not permitted." Deruiter v Byron Twp, 325
Mich.App. 275, 283; 926 N.W.2d 268 (2018) ...