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Easement extinguished when one party becomes owner of both dominant and servient estates

The court affirmed the trial court's grant of summary disposition to defendants as to all the claims of easement by deed. It affirmed the trial court's ruling that the MacDonald plaintiffs did not establish a prescriptive easement, but reversed its rulings that the Hooyman, Vorac, VanderWall, Cook, Hall LLC, Page, Affeldt, Thurston, and Green plaintiffs established such a prescriptive easement. Plaintiffs asserted the right to an easement permitting pedestrian access over a drive (Lake Court Drive), a walkway, and stairs, as well as recreational use of a Lake Michigan beach (the Beach), all of which are located in the Lake Court Subdivision, where the individual defendants reside. The claim was originally brought under the theory that plaintiffs had an easement granted by deed. Plaintiffs claimed that as subsequent purchasers of the land described in the Hayden quit claim deed, they were entitled to the "right of passage" set forth in that deed. The trial court dismissed this claim on two grounds - the merger doctrine and the MRTA. The trial court held that under the doctrine of merger, the "right of passage described in the 1925 Hayden quit claim deed was extinguished as to several plaintiffs in 1926, when the Haydens became owners of both dominant and servient estates." As of 1926, "the Haydens became the sole owners of certain property, now owned by some of plaintiffs and located in Hollywood Subdivision, benefitted by the easement granted by the 1925 Hayden quit claim deed, as well as the sole owners of the property burdened by the easement, now located in Lake Court Subdivision. Because one cannot own an easement in one's own land, the easement for the property owned by the Haydens in the Hollywood Subdivision was extinguished." Also, when they later conveyed lots in the Hollywood Subdivision, breaking union of title, "they did not include any language in the deeds that granted the easement anew." Thus, the trial court did not err in granting summary disposition to defendants as to the merged property owned by the "merged plaintiffs." The court rejected the merged plaintiffs' reliance on Haab, and also rejected plaintiffs' argument that the Hayden quit claim deed be construed as a negative reciprocal easement. Remanded for entry of judgment in favor of defendants.

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