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REAL ESTATE 24: Court dismissed defendant’s counterclaim for failure to join third party.

This action involves a dispute between two brothers along with their respective wives. The parties own property near each other on the privately owned Drive (easement area) in Michigan.  A real estate development company, LLC owns the land underlying the Drive.

Although the parties had been using the Drive to access their properties, neither plaintiffs nor defendants had obtained any express right to access the Drive. In 2016, after discovering that they did not have any recorded access to their property, plaintiffs negotiated an easement with the LLC. Defendants, on the other hand, as of the time of trial, had not obtained any recorded, legal access to their property.

Within the last few years, the relationship between plaintiffs and defendants soured, and issues started to arise between them. Those issues involved defendants improperly piling snow in front of plaintiffs’ driveway, defendants improperly grading the easement such that it created an 8-to-12-inch edge that make it difficult for plaintiffs to access their property, defendants’ cutting down plaintiffs’ trees, and various other incidents affecting the use of the easement or plaintiffs’ property.

Plaintiffs filed suit and alleged that defendants interfered with plaintiffs’ use of the easement and also sought damages for trespass involving the cutting down of two of plaintiffs’ trees.

Defendants’ counter-complaint sought a declaration, among other things, that defendants had acquired a legal right to use the Drive as a means to access their property. But defendants did not add the LLC, the owner of the Drive, as a party to their suit. Consequently, the trial court dismissed defendant’s counterclaim for easement rights because of the failure to join LLC—a necessary party.

After the conclusion of the two-day bench trial, the trial court ultimately entered three judgments.

In the first one, the court ruled that defendants were barred from entering on or placing any snow or other objects in the cabled-off area of the easement area.

The court ruled that while plaintiffs preferred that defendants perform no maintenance on the easement area, the court realized that this was unrealistic because, with plaintiffs away for some of the winter months, defendants would still need to use the easement area to get to the main road and consequently would need to maintain the road, including removing snow from it. Accordingly, the court set up certain requirements that defendants must follow when performing maintenance on the easement road.

The trial court also awarded a total judgment in the amount of $3,045.47 in favor of plaintiffs.

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Our lawyers represent clients in a wide range of real estate litigation, including:

  • Boundary disputes
  • Neighbor disputes
  • Easement and access
  • Nuisance and property use disputes

We serve a diverse clientele of homeowners, property developers, commercial property owners, real estate investors and other parties with real estate interests.

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REAL ESTATE 36: Plaintiff argued that her claim was not time-barred because it did not accrue until the grandmother’s death.

Plaintiff’s interest in the subject property is best characterized as a remainder estate, because her right to possession of the property was postponed until the occurrence of a specific contingency, that being the deaths of the grandparents. Plaintiff pursued this action within the 15-year limitation period; accordingly, this action is not barred by MCL 600.5801(4).

LITIGATION 6: The terms of the agreement prevails over the course of performance.

The trial court determined that under the UCC, the express terms of the parties’ agreements prevailed over the course of their performance and course of dealing. Although a course of performance may show that parties have waived a specific contractual term under MCL 440.1303(6), the statute does not similarly provide that a course of dealing may demonstrate waiver.

PROBATE 27: Petitioner filed a petition for mental-health treatment.

In support of the allegations, petitioner attached clinical certificates from a physician and a psychiatrist who observed respondent at the hospital. Both doctors diagnosed respondent with bipolar disorder, determined that she displayed a likelihood of injuring herself and that she did not understand the need for treatment, and recommended a course of treatment that consisted of 60 days of hospitalization and 90 days of outpatient care.

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FAMILY LAW 32: Trial court committed error in failing to address whether there was an established custodial environment.

On appeal, plaintiff argues that the trial court failed to make any findings regarding (1) the child’s established custodial environment, (2) the child’s best interests regarding the grant of primary physical custody to defendant, (3) the child’s best interests with respect to parenting time, and (4) the child’s best interests pertaining to the parties’ dispute over daycare.

PROBATE 25: Daughter removed as personal representative of the estate.

the probate court determined that Daughter J had managed the estate in a manner that promoted her own interests as a beneficiary over the interests of the estate. The probate court found that such management demonstrated mismanagement of the estate and that removal of Daughter J was therefore in the best interests of the estate.

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REAL ESTATE 32: Plaintiffs and defendants executed a second easement.

Plaintiffs requested that the trial court, either through reformation of the First Easement or interpretation of the Second Easement, quiet title in favor of plaintiffs and declare them to be the owners of an easement to access Lake Superior through the ravine on defendants’ property, enjoin defendants from interfering with their use of the easement, and order compensation for damages to the stairs.

LITIGATION 4: Plaintiff claimed installation of hardwood flooring breached the condo bylaws.

Defendants completed the project. Plaintiff did not pay for any of the costs of the project. Defendants moved to compel plaintiff to pay one-half of the costs under the agreement. Plaintiff responded that defendants had materially breached the agreement in several ways, including by denying her the right to supervise the project, by refusing to give her an installation schedule, and by starting work before plaintiff approved of the start date.

FAMILY LAW 30: Discretionary trust assets cannot be reached to satisfy claims for child support and alimony.

The key difference between discretionary trusts, support trusts, and spendthrift trusts is that creditors cannot compel the trustee of a discretionary trust to pay any part of the income or principal in order that the creditors may be paid. The opposite is true of spendthrift and support trusts, which allow trust assets to be reached to satisfy creditors, including creditors seeking to satisfy claims for child support and alimony.

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FAMILY LAW 29: Quitclaim deed signed after prenuptial agreement prevails.

The court ruled that title to the land prevails and that once the deed was signed, the property became the undivided whole interest for both the decedent and appellee and became appellee’s property upon the decedent’s death. Consequently, the court concluded that the prenuptial agreement did not have any impact on the property rights of appellee in this case.

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