Bauserman v. Unemployment Ins. Agency, 333181

CourtCourt of Appeal of Michigan (US)
Citation330 Mich.App. 545,950 N.W.2d 446
Docket NumberNo. 333181,333181
Parties Grant BAUSERMAN, Karl Williams and Teddy Broe, on Behalf of Themselves and All Others Similarly Situated, Plaintiffs-Appellees, v. UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE AGENCY, Defendant-Appellant.
Decision Date05 December 2019

330 Mich.App. 545
950 N.W.2d 446

Grant BAUSERMAN, Karl Williams and Teddy Broe, on Behalf of Themselves and All Others Similarly Situated, Plaintiffs-Appellees,
v.
UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE AGENCY, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 333181

Court of Appeals of Michigan.

Submitted May 1, 2019, at Lansing.
Decided December 5, 2019, 9:00 a.m.


ON REMAND

Fort Hood, J.

950 N.W.2d 450
330 Mich.App. 549

This putative class action returns to us on remand from the Michigan Supreme Court. In our first opinion in this case, in which plaintiffs alleged a deprivation of their due-process rights under Const. 1963, art. 1, § 17, we concluded that plaintiffs had not given timely notice of their due-process claims to defendant, the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency (the Agency), in compliance with MCL 600.6431(3). In an opinion issued April 5, 2019, the Michigan Supreme Court disagreed with our conclusion, reasoning that plaintiffs did not incur an " ‘actionable harm’ " in their due-process claims until they were deprived of their property when their income tax refunds were seized or their wages were garnished. Bauserman v. Unemployment Ins. Agency , 503 Mich. 169, 190, 192-193, 931 N.W.2d 539 (2019).1 Because

330 Mich.App. 550

plaintiffs Grant Bauserman and Teddy Broe filed their claims in a timely manner in compliance with MCL 600.6431(3) but plaintiff Karl Williams did not, our Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part our judgment and remanded the case to this Court with the directive that we "consider the Agency's argument that it is entitled to summary disposition on the ground that plaintiffs failed to raise cognizable constitutional tort claims." Bauserman , 503 Mich. at 193 n. 20, 931 N.W.2d 539.

I. BACKGROUND

We adopt the pertinent facts of this case from our Supreme Court's opinion:

Plaintiffs are former recipients of unemployment compensation benefits who allege that the Agency unlawfully seized their property without affording due process of law. Plaintiff Bauserman received unemployment compensation from October 2013 through March 2014. In October 2014, the Agency sent Bauserman and his former employer, Eaton Aeroquip (Eaton), a questionnaire regarding suspected unreported earnings that Bauserman received while he was receiving unemployment compensation. Both Bauserman and Eaton responded that Bauserman had not worked for Eaton at the time. On December 3, 2014, the Agency sent Bauserman two notices of redetermination, one claiming that he had received unemployment compensation for which he was ineligible and the other claiming that he had intentionally misled the Agency or concealed information from it to obtain compensation for which he was not eligible. As a result, the Agency informed Bauserman that he
950 N.W.2d 451
owed $19,910 in overpayments, penalties, and interest. The next day, Bauserman submitted an online appeal through the Agency's website regarding its assertion that he had committed fraud, but did not submit a separate appeal regarding the Agency's determination that he had received compensation for which he was not eligible.
330 Mich.App. 551
From January 2015 through June 2015, the Agency sent Bauserman multiple notices stating the amount he owed to the Agency, informing him of missed payments on his debt, and raising the possibility that his wages would be garnished or his tax refunds seized. One of these communications consisted of a "notice of intent to reduce/withhold federal income tax refund," which warned Bauserman that "if you do not pay the amount shown or take other action described below within 60 days of the mail date on this form, the [Agency] will submit this benefit overpayment balance (restitution) to ... the United States Department of Treasury ... [which] will reduce or withhold any federal income tax refund you may be due and will instead forward that amount to the [Agency]." Around this same time, Bauserman sent multiple letters to the Agency attempting to explain the situation, two of which included an attached letter from Eaton explaining that Bauserman received one payment in 2014 for work performed in 2013 but was not employed by Eaton during the time he was receiving unemployment compensation. Finally, on June 16, 2015, the Agency intercepted Bauserman's state and federal income tax refunds.

On September 9, 2015, Bauserman filed a putative class action against the Agency in the Court of Claims, alleging that the Agency had deprived him of his property without providing due process of law. More specifically, he alleged that "Michigan's unemployment fraud detection, collection, and seizure practices fail to comply with minimum due process requirements." On September 30, 2015, the Agency issued two new notices of redetermination, rendering its December 3, 2014 redeterminations "null and void," and the Agency has since returned all monies seized from Bauserman.

On October 19, 2015, Bauserman filed an amended complaint, which added Teddy Broe and Karl Williams as named plaintiffs to the class action. Broe had received unemployment compensation from April 2013 to August 2013, and he had initially been determined eligible on the basis that he had been laid off by his employer, Fifth Third Bank (Fifth Third). However, Fifth Third challenged
330 Mich.App. 552
that determination, alleging that Broe voluntarily terminated his employment to attend school. The Agency then sent requests for information to Broe regarding his eligibility for compensation, and on July 15, 2014, it sent two notices of redetermination to Broe, the first claiming that he had received compensation for which he was ineligible because his termination of employment at Fifth Third "was voluntary and not attributable to the employer," and the second claiming that he had intentionally misled the Agency or concealed information from it to obtain compensation that he was not eligible to receive. As a result, the Agency informed Broe that he owed $8,302 in overpayments, penalties, and interest.

From August 2014 through April 2015, the Agency sent Broe multiple notices stating the amount owed to the Agency, informing him of missed payments on the debt and raising the possibility that his wages would be garnished or his tax refunds seized. Specifically, on
950 N.W.2d 452
September 2, 2014, the Agency sent Broe a "notice of intent to reduce/withhold federal income tax refund" that was materially identical to the notice provided to Bauserman. In April 2015, Broe sent the Agency a letter appealing its redeterminations and claiming that he had not received the Agency's previous communications because they had been sent to him through his online account with the Agency, which he no longer accessed because he was reemployed and no longer seeking unemployment compensation. The Agency denied the appeal as untimely and, in May 2015, intercepted Broe's state and federal tax refunds. On November 4, 2015, the Agency issued two notices of redetermination, reversing its July 15, 2014 redeterminations that Broe was ineligible for compensation and had committed fraud. The Agency has since returned all monies seized from Broe.

Williams started working at Wingfoot Commercial Tire System in May 2011. When his employment with Wingfoot began, Williams was receiving unemployment compensation from a previous employer. Williams alleges that he advised the Agency that he was now receiving wages from Wingfoot, yet his unemployment compensation had not
330 Mich.App. 553
been altered; Williams believed that he was still entitled to unemployment compensation because his wages from Wingfoot were less than 1½ times his weekly compensation. See MCL 421.48(1). The Agency sent Williams a request to provide information regarding his employment with Wingfoot. On June 22, 2012, the Agency issued redeterminations that (1) terminated Williams's receipt of future unemployment compensation, (2) asserted that he had already received compensation for which he was ineligible due to his employment with Wingfoot, and (3) alleged that he had intentionally misled the Agency or concealed information from it to obtain compensation for which he was not eligible.

On October 29, 2013, the Agency sent Williams a "notice of garnishment" stating that, if the amount owed was not provided to the Agency within 30 days, his "employer [would] be required to deduct and send to [the Agency] up to 25% of [his] disposable earnings each pay period until the debt is paid in full." Williams's wages were first garnished, at the latest, on May 16, 2014, and on May 27, 2014, the Agency sent Williams a "notice of intent to reduce/withhold federal income tax refund" that was materially identical to the notices provided to Bauserman and Broe. Williams sent a letter appealing the Agency's redeterminations on May 22, 2014. The Agency denied Williams's appeal as untimely, as did an administrative law judge. Finally, on February 19, 2015, the Agency seized Williams's federal income tax refund and continues to collect his debt by this means. [ Bauserman , 503 Mich. at 173–77, 931 N.W.2d 539 (alterations in
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4 cases
  • Bauserman v. Unemployment Ins. Agency
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Michigan
    • July 26, 2022
    ...as an established practice of state government officials such that they amounted to a 1 custom supported by the force of law. 330 Mich.App. 545 (2019). In concluding that damages were available as a remedy for the due-process deprivation plaintiffs alleged, the Court of Appeals applied the ......
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