Robert Zawideh | Troy Estate Lawyer

Robert Zawideh Lawyer

Robert S. Zawideh update listing

Estate, Securities Fraud , Complex Litigation, Wrongful Death


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Robert Zawideh is an attorney and shareholder in The Kemp Klein Law Firm, of which he has been a member since 2010.  Currently the head of Kemp Klein’s Litigation Practice Group, Mr. Zawideh primarily represents interested persons in high net worth trust and estate disputes.  This body of work is part of a 29-year history of successfully resolving complex litigation and business matters on behalf of individuals, businesses and municipalities. In addition to trust and estate litigation, Mr. Zawideh’s experience includes representing businesses and families involved in complex business and commercial litigation, employment claims, franchise matters, real estate claims and contract disputes.  Robert Zawideh’s litigation practice has taken him before Michigan’s trial and appellate courts, including the Michigan Supreme Court, as well as before federal courts, state courts and arbitration panels across the United States. He has appeared in state and federal, trial or appellate courts in Michigan, Ohio, California, Illinois, Louisiana, Utah and Washington, D.C.

Probate and Trust Litigation: As a skilled and experienced trial and litigation attorney, Mr. Zawideh has successfully guided his clients through extremely difficult financial and emotional issues that are inherent in probate litigation involving will and trust contests, accounting disputes, as well as guardianship and conservatorship proceedings.

Commercial and Franchise Litigation: From simple breach of contract actions to complex franchise litigation, Mr. Zawideh has effectively represented his clients’ business interests before private arbitration panels, as well as trial and appellate courts in the metropolitan Detroit area and across the United States. Mr. Zawideh has argued and tried cases involving fraud, misrepresentation, construction law claims, breaches of noncompete agreements and violations of various state franchise investment laws at all levels of the judicial system.
Position Organization Location Duration
Shareholder | AttorneyThe Kemp Klein Law FirmTroy, MIPresent
School Degree Major Graduation
Wayne State University Law SchoolJ.D. Law School1990  
Wayne State University Law SchoolJuris DoctorLaw05/1990
James Madison College at Michigan State UniversityBachelor of ArtsJustice, Morality and Constitutional Democracy03/1987
State / Court Date
United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit2008
Michigan1990
United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan1990
  • Member | Oakland County Bar Association
    Fellow | Oakland County Bar Foundation
  • Mr. Zawideh was featured in the 2020 Michigan Edition of Leading Lawyers Magazine in the article, “Trust and Estate Lawyer Strives to Make a Lasting Difference.” Since 2017, Mr. Zawideh has been given an "AV” rating as “Preeminent”, the highest peer review rating for attorneys by Martindale-Hubbell, which recognizes lawyers for strong legal ability and high ethical standards.
  • Zawideh Successfully Defends Trustee Against Claims of Fraud
    Twenty years earlier, the Settlor, a widow, established a trust for the benefit of her daughter, “Jane Doe” (“Jane”), Jane’s two sons, and the Settlor’s son, ”John Doe” (“John”), and daughter-in-law, “Mary Roe” (“Mary”). The Trust nominated Jane as the successor trustee of the trust, except as to that portion of the Trust that was to benefit John and Mary; for John and Mary’s trust, the Settlor nominated her CPA as the successor trustee. Under their trust, on the Settlor’s death, John and Mary received two cars and the Settlor’s home, or the proceeds of that home to be used to purchase another home, plus their trust was to be funded with cash to be used for John and Mary’s benefit. Settlor died eighteen years ago. Last summer, Mary brought an action against the CPA demanding an accounting of the trust and claiming that the CPA breached her fiduciary duties to Mary regarding payment of funds for Mary’s maintenance. Six months later, Mary amended her petition to add Jane, claiming that when the settlor died, Jane “fraudulently” underfunded John and Mary’s trust by over a quarter of a million dollars. Jane retained The Kemp Klein Law Firm, and attorney Robert Zawideh immediately noticed up Mary’s deposition. At her deposition, Mr. Zawideh got Mary to admit that Jane owed her no duties, and that she had no evidence to support her claims against Jane. Minutes after the end of that deposition, Mr. Zawideh explained to Mary’s attorney that if he did not immediately dismiss Jane from the case, that both he and his client would be subjected to a claim for sanctions. The following day, counsel wrote to Mr. Zawideh agreeing to have his client dismissed from the lawsuit.Twenty years ago, the Settlor, a widow, established a trust for the benefit of her daughter, “Jane Doe” (“Jane”), Jane’s two sons, and the Settlor’s son, ”John Doe” (“John”), and daughter-in-law, “Mary Roe” (“Mary”). The Trust nominated Jane as the successor trustee of the trust, except as to that portion of the Trust that was to benefit John and Mary; for John and Mary’s trust, the Settlor nominated her CPA as the successor trustee. Under their trust, on the Settlor’s death, John and Mary received two cars and the Settlor’s home, or the proceeds of that home to be used to purchase another home, plus their trust was to be funded with cash to be used for John and Mary’s benefit. Settlor died eighteen years ago. Last summer, Mary brought an action against the CPA demanding an accounting of the trust and claiming that the CPA breached her fiduciary duties to Mary regarding payment of funds for Mary’s maintenance. Six months later, Mary amended her petition to add Jane, claiming that when the settlor died, Jane “fraudulently” underfunded John and Mary’s trust by over a quarter of a million dollars. Jane retained The Kemp Klein Law Firm, and attorney Robert Zawideh immediately noticed up Mary’s deposition. At her deposition, Mr. Zawideh got Mary to admit that Jane owed her no duties, and that she had no evidence to support her claims against Jane. Minutes after the end of that deposition, Mr. Zawideh explained to Mary’s attorney that if he did not immediately dismiss Jane from the case, that both he and his client would be subjected to a claim for sanctions. The following day, counsel wrote to Mr. Zawideh agreeing to have his client dismissed from the lawsuit.Twenty years ago, the Settlor, a widow, established a trust for the benefit of her daughter, “Jane Doe” (“Jane”), Jane’s two sons, and the Settlor’s son, ”John Doe” (“John”), and daughter-in-law, “Mary Roe” (“Mary”). The Trust nominated Jane as the successor trustee of the trust, except as to that portion of the Trust that was to benefit John and Mary; for John and Mary’s trust, the Settlor nominated her CPA as the successor trustee. Under their trust, on the Settlor’s death, John and Mary received two cars and the Settlor’s home, or the proceeds of that home to be used to purchase another home, plus their trust was to be funded with cash to be used for John and Mary’s benefit. Settlor died eighteen years ago. Last summer, Mary brought an action against the CPA demanding an accounting of the trust and claiming that the CPA breached her fiduciary duties to Mary regarding payment of funds for Mary’s maintenance. Six months later, Mary amended her petition to add Jane, claiming that when the settlor died, Jane “fraudulently” underfunded John and Mary’s trust by over a quarter of a million dollars. Jane retained The Kemp Klein Law Firm, and attorney Robert Zawideh immediately noticed up Mary’s deposition. At her deposition, Mr. Zawideh got Mary to admit that Jane owed her no duties, and that she had no evidence to support her claims against Jane. Minutes after the end of that deposition, Mr. Zawideh explained to Mary’s attorney that if he did not immediately dismiss Jane from the case, that both he and his client would be subjected to a claim for sanctions. The following day, counsel wrote to Mr. Zawideh agreeing to have his client dismissed from the lawsuit.

  • Plaintiff’s claims of undue influence rejected
    The decedent was a widower with no children of his own. From 2007- 11, using his own attorney, the decedent created his estate plan and amended it several times. Initially, following the death of the decedent and his wife, the decedent left 50 percent of decedent’s assets to the plaintiff, with the other 50 percent to the defendant and his father. Two years later, decedent reduced the plaintiff’s share to one-third, with the defendant and his father each receiving one-third of the trust. After moving into a nursing home, the plaintiff visited the decedent less even though his business was across the street. The defendant and his family continued to regularly visit with the decedent at least twice a week. Thereafter, the decedent removed the plaintiff completely from his estate plan. This occurred on three different days, in six different documents over a 20-month period. The plaintiff accused the defendant of working with the decedent’s attorney to remove the plaintiff from the estate plan. The plaintiff’s evidence of this was the fact that the decedent’s attorney rented space from the defendant and his father one day a week and periodically shared a receptionist/legal assistant. The plaintiff also established a presumption of undue influence at trial, i.e., that the defendant had a confidential or fiduciary relationship with the decedent, that he had an opportunity to influence the decedent, and that he benefited from the changes to the estate plan. The court, however, found that the defendant rebutted the presumption. Every witness testified that the decedent was strong-willed, even feisty, and made his own decisions. This was borne out in an audio recording where the decedent clearly stated he took good care of the plaintiff and his family and that the defendant and his family had done far more for the decedent. The court further found no evidence that the defendant was “guiding” the decedent’s attorney “behind the scenes.” That lack of evidence regarding the connection between the decedent’s attorney and the defendant was significant in light of all the other testimony presented. The court also noted that an important indicator of undue influence is whether the testator or grantor had been isolated from family and friends since isolation from other formerly trusted people could indicate an attempt to assert control over the victim. In this case, multiple witnesses testified that the defendant never discouraged or prevented the decedent from contacting anyone, even the plaintiff or his family. The defendant took the decedent to the plaintiff’s restaurant and did not restrict or attempt to restrict visits by anyone to the decedent when he lived in the nursing home, nor was there testimony that the defendant disparaged the plaintiff to the decedent. According to the court, there was no evidence that the defendant even attempted to isolate or control his relationship with the decedent. Further, the plaintiff never contradicted the evidence that the decedent and the defendant were close. In fact, there was ample uncontradicted testimony that the decedent thought of the defendant as a son. The court found that the petitioner failed to carry the burden of demonstrating undue influence on the decedent by the respondent and dismissed his claim.

  • Zawideh Wipes Out Almost $100,000 In Debt
    Robert Zawideh‘s client retained him almost two months after a court entered a default judgment against her in the amount of $98,828.78. To make matters worse, the client went to court on her own behalf and tried – unsuccessfully – to have that judgment set aside. After reviewing the file, Mr. Zawideh found evidence that the Plaintiff only ever attempted to serve the client at her former residence, which tended to support her claims that she never received service of the Summons and Complaint. Based on his conclusions, Mr. Zawideh notified Plaintiff’s counsel that not only would he file suit to set aside the default judgment, but he would also sue Plaintiff and Plaintiff’s attorney for violating the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Rather than litigate, Plaintiff agreed to accept $5,000.00 in full settlement of it’s claims, a reduction of almost $94,000.00.

  • Zawideh and Bisio Reinstate Guardianship and Conservatorship Petitions
    Robert Zawideh and Richard Bisio were retained by a brother and sister whose petitions for guardianship and conservatorship over their elderly mother were denied by the probate court. Previously, the brother and sister, who were two of ten adult children, were represented by an attorney who did not notify them until nine days before trial that he had a scheduling conflict that prevented him from representing them at trial, and that they needed to find replacement counsel. Despite their best efforts, the clients were unable to obtain substitute counsel in such a short time. As a result, the day before the trial was to begin, the former lawyer filed a motion for withdrawal that was immediately granted (the order of withdrawal was time-stamped at 9:00 a.m. that same day). Without trial counsel, subpoenaed witnesses, or exhibits, the brother and sister had no chance against their opponent, a seasoned, highly regarded probate trial attorney. After the court dismissed their petitions, Bisio and Zawideh defeated counsel’s efforts to have the probate court impose a $70,000.00 sanction against their client. Then, Zawideh and Bisio succeeded in convincing the Court of Appeals to vacate the orders dismissing those petitions, and to give their clients their day in court.

  • Zawideh succeeds in getting over $240,000 released to client in construction case.
    Robert S. Zawideh was brought in by another law firm to jointly represent a residential real estate developer that was embroiled in a dispute with its builder over the construction of three homes. Just prior to the closing of the sale of one of these homes, the builder filed nine liens on the three homes totaling $900,000. Suit was filed, and the Court removed the liens, but required that $300,000 be held in escrow (after the builder’s attorney clarified that they were seeking $300,000, rather than $900,000). After the Court ordered the builder to produce the sworn statements that would allegedly support holding the $300,000 in escrow. Zawideh argued to the Court that the sworn statements were in fact fraudulent, and demanded an evidentiary hearing in order to prove it. At the evidentiary hearing, while Mr. Zawideh was still getting testimony from his own client about the builder’s sworn statements, the Court stopped the testimony and asked the builder’s attorneys “your client want to reconsider his sworn statements or do you just want me to refer this matter to the prosecutor?” The builder then rose from his chair to take the witness stand, at which point the Court reminded him of his 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination. Following a short break, rather than refer the builder to the prosecutor, the Court reduced the amount of the escrow and released over $240,000 out of the escrow account immediately to Mr. Zawideh’s client.

  • Buttiglieri and Zawideh successfully defend son’s inheritance.
    Joseph P. Buttiglieri and Robert S. Zawideh represented the son of a man whose last trust left everything to his son, to the exclusion of his two daughters. The decedent passed away in 2012. At the time of his death, he had three adult children, one son and two daughters. Months before his death, the decedent, in consultation with his lawyer, amended his trust and estate plan, leaving his entire estate to his son. Previously, the estate was divided equally between all the children. One of the daughters was under a guardianship, and although married, the decedent acted as her Guardian and did not trust her husband. The decedent had an “okay” relationship with this daughter but did not want to leave her anything and was not interested in a special needs trust. The other daughter had almost no interaction with the decedent (her father) for approximately the last year and a half of his life. The relationship between this daughter and the decedent had been strained and even hostile for several years. Shortly after the passing of her father, the estranged daughter filed a petition for probate claiming there was no will, and asked the Court to appoint herself personal representative of her late father’s estate. After she learned that her father in fact had both a will and a trust, the estranged daughter withdrew the first petition, and then filed new petitions challenging both the will and the trust on the bare allegation that the son unduly influenced his father. Initially, the decedent’s probate and trust estates were before a probate judge who openly expressed her displeasure with the decedent’s estate plan despite the fact that the attorney who drafted the plan assured the judge that the estate plan reflected the decedent’s intentions, that he met with him alone, and that he wanted to disinherit his daughters despite the attorney’s advice to the contrary. After almost two years of litigation, Robert Zawideh moved for the judge’s disqualification from the case, based on numerous hearing transcripts in which the judge appeared to express bias against either his client, or the decedent’s estate plan. In response, the judge issued a written opinion which disagreed with everything Mr. Zawideh asserted, but which nonetheless granted the motion. Following reassignment to a new judge, Mr. Buttiglieri argued that the daughter had failed to raise any factual issue that should go before a jury. The judge agreed and granted Mr. Buttiglieri’s motion to dismiss the daughter’s challenge to her father’s estate.

  • Zawideh successfully defends franchisee from noncompete claim by franchisor.
    In its Complaint, Plaintiff, a regional pizza franchisor, alleged that the Defendants, Robert S. Zawideh’s clients, operated one of their franchise restaurants for over a year after the expiration of the franchise agreement, and thereafter, opened a new pizza business in the same location. Plaintiff claimed these actions violated the franchise agreement, which provides that Defendants may not operate a competing pizza business within five miles of the former location for five years following the termination of the franchise agreement. Defendants’ first defense to this suit was based on the premise that the five-year non-compete provision was unreasonably long and not carefully tailored to protect the franchisor’s legitimate business interests. Initially, Zawideh filed a motion with the Court to issue an order staying the case in favor of binding arbitration. Prior to the judge granting that motion, Zawideh brought to the attention of the franchisor’s attorney that it appeared his client secretly owned and operated pizza franchises of a competing pizza franchisor, and that one of these competing franchises was approximately one mile from Zawideh’s client’s location. After the court granted Zawideh’s motion compelling arbitration, and after Zawideh demanded the depositions of the franchisor’s CEO and one of its other executives, the franchisor agreed to dismiss its claims, and further agreed to reimburse Zawideh’s clients for attorney fees if it ever attempted to re-file its claims again.

  • Zawideh Convinces Court of Appeals to Reinstate Fraud Award against The Thomas Kinkade Company
    Attached is an audio recording of oral arguments in the case of The Thomas Kinkade Co. v. Hazelwood, No. 07-16421 before the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, California. The action arose from an arbitration award issued in favor of Robert Zawideh's clients in October 2006. The Arbitration Panel consisted of three arbitrators, and the Final Award was issued by a 2-1 vote. In addition to awarding $860,000 in damages, the Majority added $900,000 in attorneys' fees and costs. The panel also allocated $200,000 of defendants' non-neutral arbitrator compensation to be paid by The Thomas Kinkade Company (TKC), and included awards of administrative fees, witness fees, and an allocation of the neutral arbitrator's compensation. TKC then convinced the district court to reverse the arbitrators' ruling. On appeal, Zawideh convinced the 9th Circuit to reverse the district court and reinstate the arbitration award in favor of Zawideh's client. With interest, the final judgment in favor of Zawideh's clients exceeded $3 million dollars.

  • May, Zawideh and Nahhat obtain $1.9 million settlement in probate matter.
    Alan A. May, Robert S. Zawideh and Edward M. Nahhat represented the son and daughter of a man who had a number of estate plans prepared for him over the years. All of those plans, with the exception of the last one, provided for his children on his death. The last one, written in 2007, at a time when the father was arguably incapacitated and subject to undue influence, disinherited his two children and left everything to his wife, who was the stepmother of the two children. In the course of pre-suit discussions with counsel for the Stepmother, a number of irregularities occurred relative to the trust document that was allegedly signed by the decedent. First, the Trust document produced by the Stepmother’s counsel did not provide for a Trustee. When this was brought to the attention of counsel, a “missing” page identifying the Stepmother as the Trustee was produced. Second, the Trust document which allegedly disinherited the children and left everything to the Stepmother, provided that the children were to be “trust protectors” of the Trust that disinherited them. Lastly, after negotiations failed and a Petition was filed in Court to enforce the father’s 1997 trust – because the 2007 trust was unfunded and failed to amend the 1997 trust – the Stepmother’s counsel suddenly produced another “missing” page: one that allegedly “amended” the 1997 trust, which would arguably resolve the issue of non-funding. Following the filing of additional petitions and raising the issue of spoliation of evidence and fraudulently amending the trust documents, and after a full day of facilitation, the parties agreed to settle their claims in exchange for a payment of $1.9 million dollars – an amount representing approximately half the value of the father’s trust estate, and which was consistent with his wishes set forth in his 1997 trust.

  • May and Zawideh obtain $2.6 million settlement in probate matter.
    Alan A. May and Robert S. Zawideh represented the daughters of a man whose last estate plan effectively disinherited them in his alleged final Trust. His previous plan provided that his children would receive half of the assets of his substantial trust on his death, with the other half going to their stepmother and her children. However, in the summer of 2008, half of his trust was transferred to his wife’s separate revocable trust, and the decedent’s trust was re-written shortly thereafter at a time when the father was arguably incapacitated and subject to undue influence. The end result was a trust that was depleted by half, and which left everything to the stepmother with all of the children as contingent beneficiaries, but leaving the stepmother with the ability to empty the trust prior to her death. There were several keys to this settlement. The first was a recording made by the decedent over thirteen years before the last alleged estate plan in which the decedent instructed his daughter how he wanted the trust divided, and warned her about her stepmother. The second key was a secret memo drafted by the decedent where he repeats his intentions and warns that he is getting weaker and that his wife knows that, and that there will come a time when he will sign whatever she puts in front of him because he will be too weak to resist her. Thereafter, discovery revealed a paper trail showing (1) the stepmother admitting that her husband could be “pressured to sign things”, (2) that the stepmother and her children – along with the lawyers that she hired for both her and her husband – the decedent’s competence, and how to defend against claims of undue influence after the trust was re-written. One option that was discussed between the decedent’s alleged attorneys was having the stepmother sue the decedent (their own client) for divorce so she could obtain half of the assets in his trust. Further discovery revealed additional irregularities. Documents subpoenaed by counsel for the stepmother were produced without bates numbers on the documents, despite the fact that the source of the documents indeed used bates numbering on the documents. An examination of the two sets of documents revealed missing pages, and that the missing pages were in fact significant. Following four full days of facilitation, the children agreed to accept $2.6 million – an amount representing roughly ½ the value of their father’s trust, consistent with his wishes set forth in his prior trust. Nonetheless, contentious proceedings continued with the Decedent’s daughters petitioning to enforce the settlement agreement, and their Stepmother denying that an agreement was reached.

  • Trust petition challenged by decedent’s widow
    After decedent was diagnosed with lung cancer, he executed an estate plan March 7, 2014, prepared by his attorney, which provided that on his death, his wife would receive $400,000 in cash and their lakefront marital home. Thereafter, decedent and his wife traveled out of state for his medical treatment and did not return to Michigan until April 22, 2014. Three days later, decedent was moved out of the marital home where he lived with his wife since 1998, and was moved in with his son, who was the successor trustee of decedent’s trust. Decedent passed away June 24, 2014. Beginning on April 25, 2014, decedent amended his trust several times, eventually leaving his wife with nothing. Additionally, after April 25, 2014, decedent filed for divorce against his wife, and successfully defended against her petitions filed in the probate court to have a guardian and conservator appointed for the decedent. Within a week of his death on June 24, 2014, and before a judgment of divorce, decedent also signed several quitclaim deeds transferring title to all of his real estate — including the marital home — to his trust, which made no provision for his wife, and left millions to his four children. After retaining counsel, plaintiff filed petitions challenging the trust petition and to determine title to property. Counsel conducted 30 depositions, six of which were taken out of state. The out-of-state depositions were of decedent’s treaters, five of whom had no recollection of the decedent. The widow had no witnesses to the signing of the challenged documents that would testify favorably on her behalf. Adverse witnesses included a circuit court judge (whose court was just across the hall from the probate court); the decedent’s divorce lawyer; the guardian ad litem who supported decedent’s position regarding the widow’s unsuccessful guardianship and conservatorship proceedings; the widow’s former attorney; decedent’s former CPA who witnessed the signing of the documents; and the widow’s sister. After successfully disqualifying the Livingston County bench, plaintiff’s counsel were able to secure a substantial settlement for the widow close to what decedent’s original trust provided to her.

  • Zawideh Enforces Subcontractor’s Claim against General Contractor
    A small closely held electrical contractor was hired by a general contractor (“GC”) to provide electrical work and products on a commercial project in Ann Arbor. Due to personal matters within the owner’s family that distracted them, the subcontractor never filed a construction lien on the property to secure their payment. Unbeknownst to the subcontractor, the GC quietly settled all of its outstanding claims with the owner of the property, and then tried to get all of the subcontractors and laborers to settle their claims for pennies on the dollar. After the subcontractor retained Robert Zawideh, he immediately demanded arbitration as called for in the parties’ contract, and asserted claims of breach of contract and conversion. Thereafter, he took the deposition of the President of GC. During that deposition, Mr. Zawideh presented the GC President with a notarized Sworn Statement signed by the GC’s Vice-President (the President’s brother) and notarized by the GC’s attorney (the President’s wife) that confirmed the amount claimed by the subcontractor for its work. Under aggressive cross-examination, the GC President attempted to distance his company from the Sworn Statement by testifying that his company routinely signs false sworn statements. After the first day of the arbitration, the case settled when the GC agreed to pay Mr. Zawideh’s client almost $0.90 on the dollar of what was claimed by the subcontractor.

  • Taking Your Chances: Michigan Supreme Court Asks Kemp Klein to Submit Brief of Your Right to Look Before You Leap; Commentator, Fall 2019

    Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission: SCOTUS Rules it’s About the Cake, Not the Customer; Commentator, Summer 2018

    Drafting and Litigating In Terrorem Clauses: A Map Through the Minefield, Laches, Oakland County Bar Association, February 2018

    Conflicts of Interest in Estate Planning and Litigation (Or “How Many Hats Are Too Many?”), Michigan Probate & Estate Planning Journal, Vol. 36, Winter 2016, No. 1

    When the right court may be the wrong court; Commentator, Fall 2010
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Update Date: 2017-04-30

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Change Date Change Field Previous Content
2016-08-06Phone248-619-2599
2017-06-17Phone248-528-1111
2016-08-06Firm NameKemp Klein Law Firm
Robert S. Zawideh
201 W Big Beaver Rd
Ste 600
Troy, MI 48084
42.561442,-83.150861

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201 W Big Beaver Rd
Ste 600
Troy, MI 48084


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