A denial has been handed down by the Michigan Supreme Court to an appeal by Howell Public Schools in a lawsuit filed by a real estate broker and agent.

North American Brokers, a real estate agent and real estate broker, filed suit against Howell Public Schools in 2015, alleging that they had engaged a buyer to purchase the former Latson Road Elementary School property owned by the district but received no broker commission for the sale. St. John Providence, which purchased the land and constructed a medical center on the site, is also named as a defendant in the case.

Livingston County Circuit Court Judge Michael Hatty granted a motion by the school district to dismiss the case on grounds that the statute of frauds barred plaintiffs’ claims. That statute requires certain types of agreements to be in writing and signed by the party against whom it will be enforced. The brokers’ case essentially relied on the understanding of a verbal agreement between the parties. In February of last year, the Court of Appeals reversed Hatty’s decision, saying that while it was compelled to reach the result by binding precedent, it was of the opinion that it was the wrong result, and urged the Michigan Supreme Court to address the issue.

After hearing oral arguments April 12th, the state’s highest court issued a ruling today rejecting the appeal, saying it was unpersuaded the questions presented should be reviewed. The opinion upheld the concept of promissory estoppel; the legal principle that a promise is enforceable by law, even if it’s made without formal consideration. The lawsuit will now be allowed to proceed to trial. (JK)