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148907-148909 - Aroma Wines & Equipment v Columbian Dist Serv

Aroma Wines and Equipment, Inc.,
 
Donald R. Visser
Rebecca Jo Baker
 
Plaintiff/Counter-Defendant-Appellant,
 
v
(Appeal from Ct of Appeals)
 
 
(Kent – Leiber, D.)
 
Columbian Distribution Services, Inc.,
 
 
 
Defendant/Counter-Plaintiff-Appellee,
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
_____________________________
 
 
Aroma Wines and Equipment, Inc.,
 
 
 
Plaintiff/Counter-Defendant-Appellee/Cross-Appellant,
 
v
 
 
Columbian Distribution Services, Inc.,
 
Jon M. Bylsma
Conor B. Dugan
 
Defendant/Counter-Plaintiff-Appellant/Cross-Appellee,
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Summary

Defendant Columbian Distribution Services operates warehouses in Michigan. Plaintiff Aroma Wines and Equipment is a wholesale wine importer and distributor. In 2006, Aroma entered into a contract to store a large quantity of its wine in a temperature-controlled space at Columbian’s Grand Rapids warehouse. After Aroma fell behind in its rental payments, Columbian restricted access to the wines. According to Aroma, Columbian also removed its wines from the temperature-controlled space in order to rent out the space to other, better paying, clients. The two firms eventually sued each other under various theories of law. 
           
Aroma alleged that Columbian was liable for statutory conversion under MCL 600.2919a, which provides that a person damaged as a result of “another person’s stealing or embezzling property or converting property to the other person’s own use” can recover treble damages. The trial court granted a directed verdict in favor of Columbian on this claim, finding that what Columbian was alleged to have done could not constitute “converting property to the other person’s own use,” as provided in that statute. The Court of Appeals reversed in a published per curiam opinion, holding that the trial court erred in granting a directed verdict on the statutory conversion claim because Aroma presented sufficient evidence that Columbian converted the wine to its own use. 
 
Both Aroma and Columbian filed appeals in the Supreme Court. In an order dated September 19, 2014, the Supreme Court granted leave to appeal, limited to the issue of the proper interpretation of “converting property to the other person’s own use,” as used in MCL 600.2919a.