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140670 - Evans v Grosse Pointe Schools

Christopher L. Evans,
Ryan Hugh Machasic
Carl J. Marlinga
(Appeal from Ct of Appeal)
(Wayne – Macdonald, K.)
Grosse Pointe Public School System,
Mark W. McInerney


​On April 17, 2008, Christopher Evans filed a lawsuit against Grosse Pointe Public School System, claiming that GPPSS violated the Persons with Disabilities Civil Rights Act (MCL 37.1101 et seq.) when it terminated his employment. To include a defendant in a lawsuit, a plaintiff must serve the defendant with both the summons – a notice that the defendant is being sued – and the complaint, which describes the claims against the defendant and their legal basis.

Evans hired a process server, who delivered papers relating to the lawsuit to Janet Truance, the school superintendent’s executive assistant. The process server reported that he served Truance with both the summons and the complaint, and Truance signed an acknowledgement of service stating that that she received both documents. But Truance said that she had only received the complaint, and that she did not read the acknowledgment of service when she signed it; Truance claimed that the process server told her that it was a receipt for the papers. The school answered the lawsuit, and argued in the trial court that it had not been properly served. The trial judge held an evidentiary hearing and determined that Truance’s account was credible; because there was no effective service of process, the judge granted summary disposition to the school and dismissed the lawsuit. Evans appealed to the Court of Appeals, which affirmed the trial court’s ruling. In an unpublished per curiam opinion, the Court of Appeals panel held that there was no basis for concluding that the trial court’s factual findings were clearly erroneous and that Evans’ failure to serve the complaint was not excused. Equitable estoppel – a legal doctrine that prevents a party to a lawsuit from asserting or denying a fact, based on that party’s earlier statements or conduct to the contrary – did not save Evans’ lawsuit from dismissal, the appellate panel said. Evans appeals.