GREATER BETHESDA HEALING SPRINGS MINISTRY V EVANGEL BUILDERSAnnotate this Case
STATE OF MICHIGAN
COURT OF APPEALS
GREATER BETHESDA HEALING SPRINGS
February 10, 2009
EVANGEL BUILDERS & CONSTRUCTION
MANAGERS, LLC, and VINCENT COLBERT,
Wayne Circuit Court
LC No. 2002-208406 CK
Advance Sheets Version
HMC MECHANICAL CORP.,
Before: Servitto, P.J., and Owens and K. F. Kelly, JJ.
Defendant, Leslie Upfall, appeals as of right the trial court’s order of judgment affirming
an arbitration award in favor of Evangel Builders & Construction Managers, LLC, and Vincent
Colbert1 and against Upfall. Because the judgment was properly entered and is consistent with
the arbitrator’s award, we affirm.
Plaintiff initiated this action in relation to a church Evangel was to build for plaintiff.
Evangel hired defendants HMC Mechanical Corp (HMC) and its owner, Leslie Upfall, as
subcontractors on the project, and HMC subsequently hired other subcontractors to perform
some of the services for which it had contracted. In its complaint, plaintiff alleged, among other
things, that the work performed by defendants was defective, that it paid defendants for services
not completed, and that defendants breached the contract and certain warranties with respect to
their work. Various cross-claims and counterclaims followed, and one of the subcontractors
hired by HMC, KEK Enterprises, Inc., filed a separate complaint against HMC, Upfall, Evangel
Builders, plaintiff, and others for damages arising out of the church construction project. The
actions were consolidated and, upon the parties’ agreement, their disputes were submitted for
binding arbitration under the Michigan arbitration act, MCL 600.5001 et seq.
The arbitrator issued an award on September 14, 2005, that provided, in part, that Upfall
was liable (jointly with HMC) to Evangel Builders and Colbert in the amount of $75,000. KEK
Enterprises filed the arbitration award with the clerk of the court on September 19, 2005, and,
shortly thereafter, Upfall filed for bankruptcy. The trial court entered a judgment on the award
on June 27, 2006. After the entry of an order by the United States Bankruptcy Court, the trial
court set aside the judgment and thereafter entered a new (but substantially same) judgment on
July 13, 2007, against Upfall and in favor of Evangel Builders. Upfall moved for
reconsideration, which the trial court denied. This appeal followed.
On appeal, Upfall first argues that the July 13, 2007, judgment was improperly entered,
as the arbitration award was not filed with the trial court in the instant case, as required by MCR
3.602(I). The interpretation and application of a court rule involves a question of law that this
Court reviews de novo. Associated Builders & Contractors v Dep’t of Consumer & Industry
Services Director, 472 Mich 117, 123-124; 693 NW2d 374 (2005). The rules governing the
construction of statutes apply with equal force to the interpretation of court rules. Rafferty v
Markovitz, 461 Mich 265, 270; 602 NW2d 367 (1999). Clear and unambiguous language in a
court rule must be given its plain meaning and enforced as written. Fleet Business Credit, LLC v
Krapohl Ford Lincoln Mercury Co, 274 Mich App 584, 591; 735 NW2d 644 (2007).
MCR 3.602(I) provides:
Award; Confirmation by Court. An arbitration award filed with the clerk
of the court designated in the agreement or statute within one year after the award
was rendered may be confirmed by the court, unless it is vacated, corrected, or
modified, or a decision is postponed, as provided in this rule.
Colbert is the owner of Evangel Builders and Construction managers, LLC, and these
defendants shall singularly be referred to as “Evangel Builders.”
It is undisputed that the arbitration award resolved all the claims of all the parties in the
two lawsuits and that KEK filed the award with the clerk of the court mere days after the award
was issued. While Upfall contends that KEK filed the award only with respect to the KEK case,
the date-stamped cover sheet under which the award was filed contains the case number of the
instant matter. Moreover, the cases were consolidated and treated as one for purposes of
arbitration and the award, and there is nothing in the language of MCR 3.602(I) that requires that
all parties seeking to enforce an arbitration award separately file the award with the court clerk.
Upfall has provided no authority suggesting or supporting such an interpretation; thus, this
Upfall next contends that MCR 3.602 requires that any judgment on an arbitration award
be entered within one year of the issuance of the award. According to Upfall, the entry of the
July 13, 2007, judgment was in error because it was entered more than one year after the
September 14, 2005, arbitration award. We disagree.
Notably, Upfall provides no authority to support his position and gives this issue only
cursory treatment. An appellant may not merely announce its position and leave it to this Court
to discover and rationalize the basis for its claims, unravel or elaborate its argument, or search
for authority for its position. Wiley v Henry Ford Cottage Hosp, 257 Mich App 488, 499; 668
NW2d 402 (2003). Insufficiently briefed issues are deemed abandoned on appeal. Blackburne &
Brown Mortgage Co v Ziomek, 264 Mich App 615, 619; 692 NW2d 388 (2004).
Nevertheless, in addressing the merits of Upfall’s argument, we note, as we did
previously, that the rules governing the construction of statutes apply with equal force to the
interpretation of court rules. Rafferty, supra. The drafters of statutes are presumed to know the
rules of grammar, and statutory language must be read within its grammatical context unless a
contrary intent is clearly expressed. Niles Twp v Berrien Co Bd of Comm’rs, 261 Mich App 308,
315; 683 NW2d 148 (2004).
The “last antecedent” rule of statutory construction provides that a modifying or
restrictive word or clause contained in a statute is confined solely to the immediately preceding
clause or last antecedent, unless something in the statute requires a different interpretation.
Stanton v Battle Creek, 466 Mich 611, 616; 647 NW2d 508 (2002). Applying this rule to MCR
3.602(I), the clause “within one year after the award was rendered” applies to the filing of the
award with the court clerk, not to the confirmation of the award by the court. Nothing in the
court rule requires a different interpretation.
Additionally, at the time the arbitration award at issue was rendered, MCR 3.602(J)(2)
required a party to file an application to vacate an arbitration award within 21 days after the party
received a copy of the award, unless the award was “predicated on corruption, fraud, or other
undue means,” in which event the application had to be filed within 21 days after “the grounds
are known or should have been known.” MCR 3.602(K)(1) required a party to apply for
modification or correction of an award within 21 days after the date of the award.2 In the present
case, appellant has never filed an application to vacate, modify, or correct the arbitration award.
Given that the court “shall render judgment giving effect to the award as corrected, confirmed, or
modified,” MCR 3.602(L), and the award having been confirmed, entry of the judgment was
Finally, Upfall contends that the judgment, as entered, is inconsistent with the arbitration
award. Generally, issues regarding an order enforcing an arbitration award are reviewed de
novo. Saveski v Tiseo Architects, Inc, 261 Mich App 553, 554; 682 NW2d 542 (2004).
The judgment provides:
A Judgment in favor of. . . Evangel Builders and Vincent Colbert shall be
entered against. . . H.M.C. Mechanical Corporation and Leslie Upfall for their
tortuous [sic], intentional and improper interference with the contract between
Evangel and Plaintiff Greater Bethesda Healing Springs Ministry which resulted
[in] Plaintiff Greater Bethesda’s decision to terminate the contract between
Greater Bethesda and Evangel and Vincent Colbert resulting in the loss of
anticipated fees totaling Seventy-Five Thousand ($75,000) Dollars for Evangel
Builders and Vincent Colbert. A Judgment in the amount of Seventy-Five
Thousand ($75,000) Dollars shall be entered against. . . HMC Contracting and
Leslie Upfall jointly and severally, inclusive of costs and attorney fees.
The text on page 11 of the arbitration award bears the heading, “Arbitration Award” and
states, in relevant part, as follows:
Hills Mechanical Contracting Corporation, a/k/a HMC, a Michigan
Corporation and Leslie Upfall are jointly and severally liable, and shall pay
Evangel Builders & Construction Managers, a Michigan Limited Liability
Company, and Vincent Colbert the total sum of Seventy-Five Thousand and
00/100 ($75,000) Dollars.
Upfall asserts that the language in the judgment concerning Upfall’s “tortuous [sic],
intentional and improper interference” is not included on page 11 of the arbitration award and, as
such, should not have appeared in the judgment. Again, Upfall has failed to adequately brief this
issue or cite any authority supporting his position, rendering this issue effectively abandoned on
appeal. See Wiley v Henry Ford Cottage Hosp and Blackburne & Brown Mortgage Co v
Ziomek, supra. In any event, after briefly considering Upfall’s argument, we find no error in the
In 2007, the court rule was amended to extend the time for filing a motion to vacate, modify, or
correct an arbitration award to 91 days. See MCR 3.602(J), (K).
MCR 3.602(L) states that “[t]he court shall render judgment giving effect to the award as
corrected, confirmed, or modified.” Page 9 of the arbitrator’s decision includes the following
5. Evangel and Colbert have filed a Counter/Cross Complaint against
Defendant and Cross Plaintiffs HMC and Leslie Upfall alleging a Breach of
Contract, Tortious Interference with Contractual Relations and Defamation.
Credible evidence supports the complaint. Upfall’s efforts in February and March
2002, including submitting a new contract between his company, HMC, and
Greater Bethesda, are sufficient evidence of Upfall’s intentional and improper
interference with the contract between Evangel and Greater Bethesda, which
more likely than not, precipitated Rev. Knowlton’s decision to terminate the
Greater Bethesda contract with Evangel. This termination resulted in a loss of
anticipated fees for Evangel. The evidence warrants an award and judgment of
Seventy-Five Thousand and 00/100 ($75,000) Dollars to Evangel and against Les
Upfall and HMC jointly and severally, inclusive of costs and attorney fees.
As seen above, the arbitrator explicitly found that Upfall intentionally and improperly
interfered with the contract between Evangel and plaintiff. The statement in the judgment that
Upfall tortiously, intentionally, and improperly interfered with the contract between Evangel and
plaintiff is thus consistent with the arbitrator’s decision.
/s/ Deborah A. Servitto
/s/ Donald S. Owens
/s/ Kirsten Frank Kelly