269 N.W.2d 304 (Mich.App. 1978), 77-3650, Light v. Schmidt

Docket Nº:Docket No. 77-3650.
Citation:269 N.W.2d 304, 84 Mich.App. 51
Opinion Judge:KAUFMAN, Judge.
Party Name:R. F. LIGHT d/b/a R. F. Light Diving & Salvage, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Donald C. SCHMIDT, d/b/a Michigan Marine Salvage, Defendant, and Peter Bill, Defendant-Appellant.
Attorney:Peter Bill in pro. per., Lowell Blumberg, Gaylord, for defendant-appellant. Gillard, Bauer & Mazrum by James L. Mazrum, Joel W. Gillard, Alpena, Stewart, O'Reilly, Cornell, Donovan, Lascoe & Rancilio by William M. Donovan, Sterling Heights, for plaintiff-appellee.
Judge Panel:[84 Mich.App. 53] Before J. H. GILLIS, P.J., and D. E. HOLBROOK and KAUFMAN, JJ.
Case Date:June 06, 1978
Court:Court of Appeals of Michigan
 
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Page 304

269 N.W.2d 304 (Mich.App. 1978)

84 Mich.App. 51

R. F. LIGHT d/b/a R. F. Light Diving & Salvage,

Plaintiff-Appellee,

v.

Donald C. SCHMIDT, d/b/a Michigan Marine Salvage,

Defendant,

and

Peter Bill, Defendant-Appellant.

Docket No. 77-3650.

Court of Appeals of Michigan.

June 6, 1978

        Rehearing Denied July 14, 1978.

        Released for Publication Sept. 7, 1978.

Page 305

       Peter Bill in pro. per., Lowell Blumberg, Gaylord, for defendant-appellant.

       Gillard, Bauer & Mazrum by James L. Mazrum, Joel W. Gillard, Alpena, Stewart, O'Reilly, Cornell, Donovan, Lascoe & Rancilio by William M. Donovan, Sterling Heights, for plaintiff-appellee.

       [84 Mich.App. 53] Before J. H. GILLIS, P.J., and D. E. HOLBROOK and KAUFMAN, JJ.

       KAUFMAN, Judge.

       This is an appeal by defendant Bill from an adverse verdict by a jury in the trial court, holding him liable to plaintiff in the amount of $20,672. Plaintiff had alleged that he provided certain diving services for inspection and salvage operations for which defendants failed to pay. It was also alleged that certain checks issued by defendant Schmidt and Michigan Marine Salvage were returned unpaid and that payment was wrongfully and fraudulently stopped on another check.

       Plaintiff testified that he was a commercial diver who did substantial salvage work. In February, 1974, Schmidt contacted him concerning the possible salvage of a load of steel aboard a sunken vessel known as the "Monrovia". During the meeting, plaintiff and Schmidt discussed the cost of the operation and Schmidt informed plaintiff at that time that there was a third party who was backing the project financially. He did not disclose the [84 Mich.App. 54] name of that third party. It was not until later that plaintiff came to the conclusion that defendant Bill was in charge.

       After their discussion, Schmidt agreed to the rates quoted by plaintiff. Under the terms of the agreement, plaintiff would furnish four divers in addition to himself (who were to be paid once a week), and Schmidt and Bill would furnish the equipment.

       Pursuant to the parties' agreement, plaintiff arrived in Alpena on May 17, 1974. The parties intended to inspect the "Monrovia" the next day. However, on that occasion, they were unable to locate the wreck. It was when they returned from this trip that plaintiff met defendant Bill. The sunken vessel was located on May 27, 1974. It was after the ship was discovered that defendant Bill called in four extra divers against the recommendation of plaintiff and defendant Schmidt. Of the four weeks that plaintiff and his divers were on the job, they were in the water only seven days and retrieved only a small amount of steel from the ship.

       Financial difficulties arose shortly after the project began. Schmidt instructed plaintiff to hold a check issued on June 4, 1974, until sufficient funds could be put in the account to cover it. A stop-payment order was later issued by Mr. Schmidt. Other checks issued by Schmidt were returned marked "non-sufficient funds".

       When it became apparent that the divers might not be paid, they met with plaintiff and defendants Schmidt and Bill, and informed the latter that unless they were paid, they would stop working. At that

Page 306

time, Bill guaranteed payment of the money and ordered Schmidt to pay the fees of the divers. It was plaintiff's opinion that Bill was [84 Mich.App. 55] guaranteeing payment with his personal finances, since at no time did he mention a corporation.

       The evidence at trial showed that plaintiff knew of the existence of a corporation that was connected with defendant Bill and also knew it was named after Peter Bill. However, defendant was not told nor was he aware that Peter Bill & Associates, Incorporated, was financing the project, if that in fact was the case. Plaintiff did acknowledge that checks had been made out by Peter Bill & Associates to plaintiff; however, there was no other writing between plaintiff and Peter Bill & Associates.

       Plaintiff Light was the only witness called by plaintiff at trial. Following Light's testimony, a motion for directed...

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