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Property owners claim land to the center of river bordering their property under riparian rights

The court affirmed the trial court's judgment denying defendants-Beatrice, Kevin and Shannon's motion for summary disposition and granting summary disposition and quieting title to real property in favor of the plaintiffs-Usiondeks. It also affirmed the trial court's prior orders granting a default judgment quieting title in favor of the Usiondeks to the real property at issue against defendants-Frank, Arda, James, Pearl, John and Maria (identified as earlier owners in the chain of title), and the trial court's denial of Beatrice, Kevin and Shannon's motion to set aside the default. The litigation arose from a dispute over ownership of real property referred to as "the River Flats" area. The property borders a river and is contiguous to the property the Usiondeks owned. "Apparently, the River Flats area is submerged several months of the year by the waters" of the river. However, when the waters recede the area is exposed and accessible and is situated between the Usiondeks' property and the river. They claimed that as riparian land owners, the River Flats area is part of their property, which they alleged extends to the center of the river. Beatrice, Kevin and Shannon claimed that the area was "reserved, having initially been part of a larger parcel of land and, despite the subsequent subdivision of the parcel, comprises a 'no man's land' available 'for everyone's enjoyment.'" They asserted the trial court erred in denying their motion to set aside the default against the earlier owners in the chain of title. The Usiondeks acknowledged that through oversight counsel for Beatrice, Kevin and Shannon was not provided notice of the default. However, they emphasized that the default did not encompass these parties and did not "negatively affect their rights as their claims continued to be litigated to conclusion before the trial court." Although their counsel was not counsel of record for the defaulted individuals, it was clear that "the failure to serve them was contrary to the requirement of MCR 2.603(A)(2), which states, in relevant part: 'Notice that the default has been entered must be sent to all parties who have appeared and to the defaulted party.'" Nonetheless, it was questionable whether Beatrice, Kevin and Shannon had standing to set aside the default against the other defendants. "A party must have a legally protected interest that is in jeopardy of being adversely affected to have standing." There was no showing that "the property rights Beatrice, Kevin and Shannon claimed have been adversely affected by the default of the other defendants, particularly as their claims were allowed to proceed in the trial court." MCR 2.603(B)(1) "requires notice only to parties that are in default," which did not include Beatrice, Kevin and Shannon. The parties subject to the default "never appeared in the action, nor did any counsel on their behalf. Moreover, the relief sought of quieting title was consistent with the relief requested in the Usiondeks' pleadings."

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