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Michigan Supreme Court Orders Case Initiation Deadlines to “Stay in Place” During State of Emergency

Following Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s declaration of a state of emergency beginning March 24, 2020, the Michigan Supreme Court issued an Administrative Order suspending certain deadlines relating to the initiation of civil and probate cases in Michigan’s courts.  Mirroring the Governor’s order that Michigan residents “Stay in Place” for an unspecified period of time during the COVID-19 outbreak, AO 2020-3 effectively tolls “all deadlines pertaining to case initiation and the filing of initial responsive pleadings in civil and probate matters during the state of emergency…”  Specifically, for these filings, “any day that falls during the state of emergency…is not included for purposes of MCR 1.108(1).”  For example, a response to a civil complaint that was originally due on March 27 would be due four days after the Governor ends the state of emergency (because four days were left in the original filing period before the state of emergency began on March 24).

What filing deadlines are likely tolled by the Administrative Order?

The Order tolls “all deadlines applicable to the commencement of all civil and probate case-types, including but not limited to the deadline for the initial filing of a pleading under MCR 2.110 or a motion raising a defense or an objection to an initial pleading under MCR 2.116, and any statutory prerequisites to the filing of such a pleading or motion…” (emphasis original).  This would appear to include:

  • “Pleadings” as defined by MCR 2.110 (Complaint, Cross-claim, Counterclaim, Third-party Complaint, Answer to any of the above, Reply to an Answer)
  • Motions for Summary Disposition under MCR 2.116
  • Motion for More Definite Statement under MCR 2.115
  • Notices of Intent for medical malpractice actions, and challenges thereto

What filing deadlines may NOT be tolled by the Administrative Order?

Given the Order’s focus on initial pleadings and responses for the commencement of all civil “case-types,” it appears that the deadlines for the following filings are NOT tolled by the Order:

  • Claim of Appeal in the Court of Appeals
  • Application for Leave to Appeal in the Court of Appeals or Supreme Court
  • Amended Complaints and Responses thereto
  • Discovery Motions
  • Motions for Reconsideration and Post-Trial Motions

Motions that are tied to the deadline for answering a pleading (including motions for change of venue and notice of non-party fault) will be affected by an initial answer that is tolled during the emergency period, but litigants should not assume that the deadlines are tolled if the answer has already been filed.

It is unclear whether deadlines for commencing an appeal in the Circuit Court are tolled by the Order, because those appeals receive a “case-type” code when filed.

Litigants should read the Order carefully and consult with counsel to determine whether a deadline in a particular case is tolled by the Order.

Author: Karen Beach

Karen Beach

Karen has been lead appellate counsel in over 30 cases in the Michigan state and federal courts, including two oral arguments before the Michigan Supreme Court. She gets to the bottom of what transpired throughout the case and develops creative solutions to best position the case for appeal.

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