In Hardaway v County of Wayne, the plaintiff was a former Wayne County employee who claimed that she was entitled to certain post-employment benefits under a County Commission resolution. The Court of Appeals applied the “last antecedent” rule of statutory construction to the regulation’s ambiguous language and concluded that the plaintiff was entitled to the benefits. Under a County Commission resolution, any employee who ended their employment with the County after January 1, 1994 and had served a total of at least eight years was entitled to post-employment insurance and health care benefits so long as the employee served in one of several enumerated positions. The plaintiff claimed that she was entitled to the benefits as “an appointee other than a member of a board or commission who is confirmed by the County Commission.” Under the “last antecedent” rule of statutory construction, a modifying clause applies solely to the immediately preceding clause. Thus, the Court of Appeals concluded that the phrase “confirmed by the County Commission” applied only to the clause “member of a board or commission” and therefore the benefits were available to all appointees as long as they were not Commission-confirmed members of a board or commission. The plaintiff qualified for the benefits because she was an appointee but was not confirmed by the Commission. Therefore, the Court of Appeals found that the plaintiff was entitled to summary disposition on this claim.
The Court of Appeals, however, rejected the plaintiff’s remaining two claims. Her breach of contract claim failed because statutes generally do not create contractual rights and therefore she could not show that there was any contract for the asserted benefits. Her claim for promissory estoppel similarly failed because the mere fact that she continued the employee-employer relationship did not indicate sufficient reliance on the County’s alleged promise to pay benefits.