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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