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Billboard is trade fixture which owner has right to remove at lease termination

The court held that because the billboard was a trade fixture, it was the defendant's property and defendant was entitled, upon termination of the lease, to remove it from the plaintiff's real property. Plaintiff's claims to the contrary had no merit. Thus, the court affirmed the trial court's order granting defendant summary disposition in this claim and delivery action. In 2003, defendant, which owns and maintains billboards, signed a lease with a property owner. "The agreement had a five-year term, and allowed defendant to maintain and operate a billboard on the property. It further specified that all signs and structures (i.e., billboards) placed on the property were trade fixtures, which defendant had a right to remove anytime during the lease, or for a reasonable period after its expiration." A bank foreclosed on the property in 2005, and plaintiff purchased it in 2007, with intent to use the billboard. "He took down defendant's existing advertisements on the billboard, and posted his contact information to solicit customers. When defendant contacted him and protested, plaintiff insisted that he owned the billboard and refused to agree to a new lease agreement." Defendant later removed the billboard with plaintiff's consent. Plaintiff, representing himself, alleged in this action that defendant unlawfully removed the billboard from his property, and demanded its return. In granting defendant's summary disposition motion, the trial court ruled that "(1) defendant owned the billboard; and (2) plaintiff's action under MCL 600.2920 necessarily failed, because he could not raise this claim as to property that he did not (and had never) owned." Plaintiff claimed on appeal that "the 2005 foreclosure terminated defendant's 2003 lease, and that the foreclosure gave him ownership of the billboard." He contended that because the billboard was rightfully his, "defendant's removal of the billboard violated MCL 600.2920." The court held that this argument was "incorrect as a matter of law. Regardless of whether the lease terminated with the property's foreclosure in 2005, the billboard is a trade fixture." Thus, it was defendant's property, and defendant was "entitled, 'upon the termination of the lease, to remove [the billboard] from [plaintiff's] real property.'"

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