Lawrence v Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency – 16.96

Lawrence v Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency
Digest No. 16.96

Section 421.33

Cite as: Lawrence v Mich Unemployment Ins Agency, 320 Mich App 422 (2017).

Court: Court of Appeals
Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Suzanne Lawrence
Employer: Bloomfield Hills Country Club
Docket No.: 332398
Date of decision: July 11, 2017

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COURT OF APPEALS HOLDING: The claimant does not have the burden to prove that she did not receive benefit checks.

FACTS: Claimant worked for a country club and was laid off for the winter season. Claimant  was paid vacation time for the first weeks of the lay off. The Agency alleged that Claimant received benefits during those weeks and is required to pay restitution ($158). Claimant denied receiving benefits during those weeks. Claimant appealed the lower decisions as misconstruing the case: the lower decisions referred to eligibility, but Claimant argued that the case is about whether she received any payment during the ineligible weeks.

DECISION: Reversed. The courts focused on the wrong issue: it was not whether Claimant was eligible but rather whether she received payment on the ineligible weeks; and there was error in affirming MCAC and in its factual determinations, misapplying the substantial evidence test.

RATIONALE: The ALJ “bewilderingly” focused consideration on eligibility during the weeks Claimant “conceded she was ineligible.” (Emphasis in original.) The ALJ decision lacks legal grounds because eligibility was not at issue. MCAC “completely missed the mark” by not overturning because the issue on appeal was whether the ALJ addressed the appropriate issue.

The circuit court erred when when it determined that MCAC’s decision was supported by competent, material, and substantial evidence. The notices of restitution and the determination were “not proof that the MUIA issued an overpayment, in any amount, to [Claimant], and to accept them as such would defy common sense.” Without a scintilla of evidence to support the payments, the circuit court erred by affirming MCAC’s decision as supported by competent, material, and substantial evidence. Claimant did not have the burden to establish that she did not receive benefits as alleged. Claimant would need to rebut evidence by the Agency, but it is not her burden in the first instance. This avoids Hodge because the circuit court did not need to substitute its judgment on credibility for the ALJ’s; the ALJ simply did not make a contrary factual finding.

Digest author: Benjamin Tigay, Michigan Law, Class of 2018
Digest updated: January 2, 2018