Reighard v. Cent. Mich. Univ., 358196

CourtCourt of Appeal of Michigan (US)
Writing for the CourtPER CURIAM.
PartiesJERRY REIGHARD, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. CENTRAL MICHIGAN UNIVERSITY, Defendant-Appellee. NATHAN JONAITIS, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. CENTRAL MICHIGAN UNIVERSITY, Defendant-Appellee.
Docket Number358196,358759
Decision Date26 May 2022

JERRY REIGHARD, Plaintiff-Appellant,


NATHAN JONAITIS, Plaintiff-Appellant,


Nos. 358196, 358759

Court of Appeals of Michigan

May 26, 2022


Court of Claims LC Nos. 21-000056-MK, 20-000188-MK

Before: Gadola, P.J., and Servitto and Redford, JJ.


In these consolidated cases,[1] plaintiffs appeal by right separate orders of the Court of Claims granting defendant's motions for summary disposition under MCR 2.116(C)(7) (governmental immunity). In both cases, the Court of Claims dismissed the complaints for failure to comply with the requirements of MCL 600.6431. Both plaintiffs advance the same argument


on appeal: that MCL 600.6431 was inapplicable because defendant is a university and not the State of Michigan. We affirm.


Plaintiffs, Jerry Reighard and Nathan Jonaitis, were terminated from their respective employment with defendant. Reighard advanced claims of age discrimination and breach of his employment contract, and Jonaitis advanced claims of disability discrimination and breach of his employment contract. Plaintiffs' claims were initially filed in the Isabella Circuit Court, but each breach of contract claim was subsequently transferred to the Court of Claims. Plaintiffs do not contest that, throughout the proceedings, they never complied with MCL 600.6431's notice or verification requirements. Defendant filed motions for summary disposition in both cases under MCR 2.116(C)(7), and the Court of Claims granted each motion for failure to comply with MCL 600.6431. Plaintiffs now appeal, arguing that their claims were not subject to the requirements of MCL 600.6431.



"This Court reviews de novo a trial court's grant of summary disposition as well as the applicability of governmental immunity and the statutory exceptions to immunity . . . ." Pike v Northern Mich. Univ, 327 Mich.App. 683, 690; 935 N.W.2d 86 (2019) (citation omitted; alteration in original). Similarly, this Court reviews de novo the interpretation and application of statutes and court rules. Dextrom v Wexford Co, 287 Mich.App. 406, 416; 789 N.W.2d 211 (2010). A motion is properly granted pursuant to MCR 2.116(C)(7):

if a claim is barred because of immunity granted by law "The contents of the complaint must be accepted as true unless contradicted by the documentary evidence." Any documentary evidence is viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. A factual dispute about whether a plaintiffs claim is barred precludes summary disposition. If there is no factual dispute, a trial court must determine whether summary disposition is appropriate under MCR 2.116(C)(7) as a matter of law. [Pike, 327 Mich.App at 690-691 (citations omitted).]

B. MCL 600.6431

Plaintiffs argue that the Court of Claims erred by granting summary disposition because MCL 600.6431 does not apply to state entities such as a university. We disagree.

"[T]he state is immune from suit unless, and only to the extent that, it consents to be sued[.]" Tyrrell v Univ of Mich, 335 Mich.App. 254, 261; 966 N.W.2d 219 (2020) (quotation marks and citation omitted; alterations in original). However, "[t]he Legislature can, and has, abrogated the state's sovereign immunity by enacting legislation consenting to suit." Tyrrell, 335 Mich.App. at 261 (quotation marks and citation omitted). The Legislature has also established conditions precedent to pursuing a claim against the state. Fairley v Dep 't of Corr, 497 Mich. 290, 292; 871


N.W.2d 129 (2015). Those conditions are set forth in MCL 600.6431, which provides in relevant part:

(1) Except as otherwise provided in this section, a claim may not be maintained against this state unless the claimant, within 1 year after the claim has accrued, files in the office of the clerk of the court of claims either a written claim or a written notice of intention to file a claim against this state or any of its departments, commissions, boards, institutions, arms, or

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