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Palmer v. AG - No. 340119, 2019 Mich. App. LEXIS 2670 (Ct. App. May 30, 2019)

Rule:

Summary disposition is proper under MCR 2.116(C)(10) if "'there is no genuine issue regarding any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.'"

Facts:

Defendants, Attorney General Schuette and assistant attorney general Teter, issued a press release regarding Palmer, a state representative, which was posted to the Michigan Attorney General website. The headline of the press release read: "Schuette Announces Conviction of Former Macomb State Representative for Role in Ponzi Scheme." The posting noted that Palmer used his position as an elected official to assist Ripley and VanLiere in their Ponzi scheme involving API Worldwide, Inc. Prior to his involvement with API, Palmer had invested $400,000 with Ripley on an unregistered security. Ripley lost Palmer's $400,000 on the investment and assured Palmer that he would get his money back if Palmer helped him with API. Palmer met with potential investors on behalf of Ripley and API. With the knowledge that Ripley was attempting to circumvent the Securities Act, Palmer did not report the conduct to proper authorities. The press release also specified that Palmer was charged with the misdemeanor of neglect of duty of a public official, for which he pleaded no contest, and was sentenced to probation and community service to be spent helping the elderly and the homeless. Palmer's counsel requested that Attorney General Schuette remove the press release from the website, and the defendant denied this request after conducting an investigation. Palmer thus filed suit against defendants, alleging defamation and tortious interference with business relations. Defendants filed a motion for summary disposition in response, which the court granted. Palmer appealed arguing that the trial court erred in granting defendants summary disposition because, contrary to what the court found, collateral estoppel did not apply, genuine issues of material fact existed regarding plaintiffs' claims of defamation and tortious interference with business relationships, and plaintiffs were entitled to injunctive relief. 

Issue:

Did the trial court err in granting defendants summary disposition?

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

The court agreed that the trial court erred in applying the doctrine of collateral estoppel, but nonetheless concluded that the trial court properly granted defendants summary disposition, and properly denied plaintiffs injunctive relief. Collateral estoppel did not apply because the issues in the underlying actions were different. Because there were no genuine issues of material fact that the statements in the press release were substantially true, the trial court properly granted defendants' summary disposition motion regarding plaintiffs' defamation claim pursuant to MCR 2.116(C)(10). Although the trial court improperly granted summary disposition on this claim based on collateral estoppel, the court ordinarily affirms a trial court's decision if it reached the right result, even for the wrong reasons." Wickings v Artic Enterprises, Inc, 244 Mich App 125, 150; 624 NW2d 197 (2000). As to the claim of tortious interference, plaintiff failed to show the element of an intentional interference by the defendant inducing or causing a breach or termination of the relationship or expectancy. Plaintiff also failed to show the four factors required for injunctive relief.

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