AuSable Manistee Action Council, Inc. v. State, Docket No. 109084

Decision Date10 April 1990
Docket NumberDocket No. 109084
Citation182 Mich.App. 596,452 N.W.2d 832
PartiesAuSABLE MANISTEE ACTION COUNCIL, INC., a Michigan Non-Profit Corporation, a/k/a AMAC, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. STATE of Michigan, acting through its Department of Military Affairs, Defendant-Appellee. 182 Mich.App. 596, 452 N.W.2d 832
CourtCourt of Appeal of Michigan — District of US

[182 MICHAPP 597] Learman, Peters, Sarow & McQuillan by Richard B. Learman, Bay City, for plaintiff-appellant.

Frank J. Kelley, Atty. Gen., Louis J. Caruso, Sol. Gen., and Thomas J. Emery and Terry L. Norton, Asst. Attys. Gen., for defendant-appellee.

Before McDONALD, P.J., and HOOD and GRIFFIN, JJ.


On November 9, 1987, plaintiff filed a complaint in Crawford Circuit Court seeking an injunction to enforce use restrictions in a deed. Specifically, plaintiff sought to enjoin defendant from allowing use of donated land (Camp Grayling) by military units not affiliated with or accountable to defendant. Plaintiff also sought declaratory relief regarding the rights and obligations of the parties with respect to the use restrictions.

The circuit court granted defendant summary disposition opining that (1) it lacked subject matter jurisdiction over plaintiff's suit because the Court of Claims had exclusive jurisdiction over the case [182 MICHAPP 598] and (2) the doctrine of sovereign immunity was applicable to plaintiff's action.

Plaintiff now appeals as of right from the May 12, 1988, order dismissing its complaint. We reverse.

Plaintiff first argues that defendant was not immune from liability arising out of its suit because the action sounded in contract.

Both parties and the circuit court acknowledged that plaintiff's complaint to enforce the use restrictions constituted a cause of action arising out of a contract. Our Supreme Court has established that sovereign immunity does not bar contract claims against the state. Zynda v. Aeronautics Comm., 372 Mich. 285, 287, 125 N.W.2d 858 (1964); W.H. Knapp Co. v. State Highway Dep't., 311 Mich. 186, 188, 18 N.W.2d 421 (1945); Hersey Gravel Co. v. State Highway Dep't., 305 Mich. 333, 339, 9 N.W.2d 567 (1943). See also Davidson v. Michigan, 42 Mich.App. 80, 83, 201 N.W.2d 296 (1972). Consequently, plaintiff's claim against defendant was not barred and the circuit court's ruling on this issue was incorrect.

Plaintiff next asserts that the circuit court had jurisdiction over its suit for injunctive and declaratory relief. We agree.

Under M.C.L. Sec. 600.6419(1)(a); M.S.A. Sec. 27A.6419(1)(a), the Court of Claims has exclusive jurisdiction to "hear and determine all claims and demands, liquidated and unliquidated, ex contractu and ex delicto, against the state and any of its departments, commissions, boards, institutions, arms, or agencies." This section has been interpreted as limiting the jurisdiction of the Court of Claims to actions for money damages. Taylor v. Auditor General, 360 Mich. 146, 151, 103 N.W.2d 769 (1960); Paquin v. Northern Michigan University, 79 Mich.App. 605, 607, 262 N.W.2d 672 (1977); Dorfman v. [182 MICHAPP 599] State Highway Dep't., 66 Mich.App. 1, 3, 238 N.W.2d 395 (1975).

In 1984, the Court of Claims Act was amended to add M.C.L. Sec. 600.6419a; M.S.A. Sec. 27A.6419(1), which provides that the Court of Claims also has jurisdiction concurrent with the circuit court over any action for equitable or declaratory relief ancillary to a claim filed pursuant to M.C.L. Sec. 600.6419; M.S.A. Sec. 27A.6419 (i.e., ancillary to a claim for money damages). If no such ancillary claim exists, then the Court of Claims lacks jurisdiction over equitable claims. 77th District Judge v. Michigan, 175 Mich.App. 681, 699, 438 N.W.2d 333 (1989).

In the instant case, there was no ancillary claim for money damages. Therefore, under the clear language of M.C.L. Sec. 600.6419a; M.S.A. Sec. 27A.6419(1), we believe that the circuit court had jurisdiction to entertain plaintiff's action.

However, we choose not to end our analysis here because of defendant's extensive reliance upon the Supreme Court's decision in Greenfield Construction Co., Inc. v. Dep't of State Highways, 402 Mich. 172, 261 N.W.2d 718 (1978) (plurality opinion). Greenfield was decided before the 1984 amendment to the Court of Claims Act and is relevant only as it relates to plaintiff's claim for declaratory relief.

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