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REAL ESTATE 60: The trial court erred in granting summary disposition to the Defendants as to Plaintiff’s quiet title, promissory estoppels, breach of contract, unjust enrichment, and fraud in the inducement claims.


This case arises out of a dispute between plaintiff and defendants regarding ownership of real property in Hamtramck, Michigan. Plaintiff brought this action, asserting claims of quiet title, breach of contract and promissory estoppel, equitable estoppel, unjust enrichment, fraud, fraud in the inducement, and conveyance with intent to defraud. Defendants filed a motion for summary disposition under MCR 2.116(C)(8) and (10). Following a hearing on the defendants’ motion for summary disposition, the trial court granted the motion.


This Court reviews de novo a trial court’s decision on a motion for summary disposition.


Plaintiff argues the trial court erred when it dismissed his claims of quiet title and breach of contract because the trial court erroneously construed the statute of frauds when dismissing those claims. We agree. Under MCR 3.411(B)(2), a plaintiff’s complaint for quiet title must allege: “(a) the interest the plaintiff claims in the premises; (b) the interest the defendant claims in the premises; and (c) the facts establishing the superiority of the plaintiff’s claim.” Plaintiff further alleged that he paid $39,000 toward the purchase of the Evaline Property. Plaintiff also claimed that he made permanent improvements to the property. We conclude that plaintiff sufficiently pleaded an oral agreement, and partial performance under that agreement, such that summary disposition should not have been granted in the defendants’ favor for these claims.


Plaintiff argues that he adequately pleaded a claim for promissory estoppel. We agree. To state a claim for promissory estoppel, a plaintiff must plead the following elements: (1) a promise, (2) that the promisor should reasonably have expected to induce action of a definite and substantial character on the part of the promisee, and (3) that in fact produced reliance or forbearance of that nature in circumstances such that the promise must be enforced if injustice is to be avoided.  Plaintiff adequately plead all elements.  Thus, under either MCR 2.116(C)(8) or MCR 2.116(C)(10), it was error for the trial court to dismiss plaintiff’s promissory estoppel claim.


Plaintiff argues that the trial court erred by concluding that plaintiff could not assert that the Defendants should be equitably estopped from denying the existence of the oral agreement. We agree. Equitable estoppel may arise where (1) a party, by representations, admissions, or silence intentionally or negligently induces another party to believe facts, (2) the other party justifiably relies and acts on that belief, and (3) the other party is prejudiced if the first party is allowed to deny the existence of those facts. The trial court dismissed plaintiff’s claim of equitable estoppel because plaintiff failed to provide evidence supporting his contention that he partially performed under the oral contract. To the extent the trial court granted summary disposition under MCR 2.116(C)(10), we conclude that the trial court erred by requiring evidence of partial performance to sustain a claim of equitable estoppel.


Plaintiff argues that the trial court erred by dismissing his claim of unjust enrichment. We agree. “The elements of a claim for unjust enrichment are (1) receipt of a benefit by the defendant from the plaintiff, and (2) an inequity resulting to plaintiff from defendant’s retention of the benefit.” In such instances, the law operates to imply a contract in order to prevent unjust enrichment.” The trial court erred by failing to account for the fact that Defendant retained the benefit of ownership of the Evaline Property as a result of plaintiff’s alleged payments. Thus the trial court erred when it dismissed plaintiff’s claim for unjust enrichment.


Plaintiff argues that the trial court erred by dismissing plaintiff’s claim for fraud in the inducement. We agree. “[I]n in general, actionable fraud must be predicated on a statement relating to a past or an existing fact,” however, “Michigan also recognizes fraud in the inducement.” “Fraud in the inducement occurs where a party materially misrepresents future conduct under circumstances in which the assertions may reasonably be expected to be relied upon and are relied upon.” Id. The elements of fraud in the inducement are:  (1) the defendant made a material representation; (2) the representation was false; (3) when the defendant made the representation, the defendant knew that it was false, or made it recklessly, without knowledge of its truth and as a positive assertion; (4) the defendant made the representation with the intention that the plaintiff would act upon it; (5) the plaintiff acted in reliance upon it; and (6) the plaintiff suffered damage. While a standard fraud claim must be premised on a statement of past or existing fact, fraud in the inducement is premised on a promise by an individual that the individual does not intend to perform. We therefore reverse the decision of the trial court.


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