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REAL ESTATE 61: The trial court did not err in ruling that the disputed boundary was established by acquiescence arising from intent to deed to a marked boundary line.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff and defendants own adjacent properties. Defendants’ property is east of plaintiff’s property, and the western boundary of defendants’ property is also the eastern boundary of plaintiff’s property. However, the parties dispute the exact location of this boundary line. Following the bench trial, the trial court issued a written opinion and order quieting title to the disputed land in favor of plaintiff and concluding that the boundary line was east of plaintiff’s driveway. The trial court found that plaintiff’s eastern boundary line had been established in a location two feet east of her driveway under the doctrine of acquiescence. The trial court relied on two theories of acquiescence in support of this conclusion. First, the trial court concluded that the boundary line had been established by acquiescence for the statutory period of 15 years because defendants’ acquiescence could be tacked onto the acquiescence in the boundary line of defendants’ predecessors in title and defendants did not prevent plaintiff from completing improvements to her driveway in 2015 and 2016 despite defendants’ knowledge that plaintiff’s driveway was on defendants’ property according to the survey. Second, the trial court concluded that the eastern boundary line of plaintiff’s property had been established by acquiescence arising from the intention to deed to a marked boundary because the previous common owner of the two subject properties had expressed her intention to plaintiff to sell the property up to the point two feet west of the well as the eastern boundary and Hale never obtained a survey to ensure the accuracy of the legal description in the land contract or her perceived boundary line.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Actions to quiet title are equitable in nature; this Court reviews such actions de novo. A finding is clearly erroneous when, although there is evidence to support it, the reviewing court on the entire record is left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed. The  trial court’s conclusions of law are reviewed de novo.

ANALYSIS

On appeal, defendants argue that the trial court erred by finding that the boundary line separating their property from plaintiff’s property was established by acquiescence. Acquiescence may be demonstrated under the following three theories: “(1) acquiescence for the statutory period; (2) acquiescence following a dispute and agreement; and (3) acquiescence arising from intention to deed to a marked boundary.”. The trial court thus concluded that the eastern boundary line of plaintiff’s property had been established by acquiescence arising from the intention to deed to a marked boundary. There was testimony at trial that the previous owner showed plaintiff the eastern boundary line at the time of the transaction and that this line was marked by reference to the old well and by stakes located in the northeast and southeast sections of the property purchased by plaintiff. There was also testimony that the previous owner affirmatively represented to plaintiff that this was the eastern boundary line. In lieu of no testimony to support plaintiff’s theory, the trial court was faced with conflicting testimony as to whether the previous owner had intended to convey to a marked boundary. It was the responsibility of the trial court as the finder of fact to resolve conflicts in the evidence, and the trial court’s factual findings in a bench trial “may not be set aside unless clearly erroneous.” MCR 2.613(C). In making this assessment, we must give due regard “to the special opportunity of the trial court to judge the credibility of the witnesses who appeared before it.”  Based on the record evidence, we conclude that the trial court’s factual findings in this case were not clearly erroneous.

To the extent defendants appear to argue that they did not have a common grantor because the previous owner, due to the foreclosure, did not did not directly convey defendants their property, defendants ignore the fact that the previous owner once owned both of the subject parcels, that both plaintiff’s and defendants’ respective chains of title are thus traceable to the previous owner, and that the previous owner is the individual who was alleged to have intended to deed to a marked boundary line. Our Supreme Court has treated similar circumstances as sufficient to satisfy the common grantor requirement.  Because defendants have not demonstrated any error by the trial court with respect to its ruling that there was acquiescence arising from the intention to deed to a marked boundary line, we affirm this ruling of the trial court. Having so concluded, there is no need for us to address the trial court’s ruling that there was also acquiescence for the statutory period because acquiescence arising from the intention to deed to a marked boundary line is sufficient in itself to establish a boundary line under the doctrine of acquiescence.

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