Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket No. 119376; Published
Judges Brennan, Murphy, and Kelly; Unanimous; Per Curiam
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: 188 Mich App 495; Link to Opinion
Trial Procedure Issues [§3135]
Collateral Estoppel and Res Judicata
In this unanimous per curiam Opinion by Judge Brennan, the Court of Appeals dealt with an issue of first impression as to whether failure to join a non-economic loss tort claim with a "mini-tort" property damage lawsuit filed in small claims court bars the subsequently filed non-economic loss claim under the compulsory joinder rules of MCR 2.203.
In holding that the failure to join the non-economic loss claim with the mini-tort claim did not bar the subsequently filed non-economic loss claim, the court noted that §3135(5) specifically states that a decision rendered in a mini-tort action "shall not be res judicata in any proceeding to determine any other liability arising from the same circumstances as give rise to the [mini-tort's] action. . . ." The court "acknowledged the well established rule that court rules take precedence over statutes on procedural matters" but found that no conflict exists between the compulsory joinder provisions of MCR 2.203 and §3135(5) of the no-fault statute. The court held that MCR 2.203 is not applicable to cases brought in the small claims division of a district court. In this regard, MCR 4.301 provides that actions in the small claims division are governed by the procedural provisions of Chapter 84 of the Revised Judicature Act and by subchapter 4.300 of the Michigan Court Rules. Neither chapter 34 of the RJA nor subchapter 4.300 of the Michigan Court Rules provides for compulsory joinder of claims.
Finally, the court noted that Chapter 2 of the Court Rules, under which the compulsory joinder rule is found, does not apply where a rule applicable to a specific court or a specific type of proceeding provides a different procedure. Finally, the court commented, "We note that there is a precedent for this court to interpret and adapt the court rules to accommodate some of the unique provisions of the no-fault act. We believe that this case presents another such instance."