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REAL ESTATE 63: HOLDING THAT PLAINTIFF ESTABLISHED TITLE, AND THAT DEFENDANTS DID NOT SHOW SUPERIOR TITLE, THE COURT AFFIRMED SUMMARY DISPOSITION FOR PLAINTIFF IN THIS QUIET TITLE ACTION UNDER MCL 600.2932(1).

This case arises out of a property dispute between plaintiff and defendants. Plaintiff’s property and defendants’ property back-up against one another, so the back of plaintiff’s property borders the back of defendants’ property. Both parties acquired their respective properties in 2015. Defendants’ property was previously owned by defendant’s parents. Plaintiff contends that there are several encroachments on her property: a water well, a portion of a concrete driveway, part of a shed, and an electrical conduit. The parties were unable to reach an agreement about what to do about these alleged encroachments, which led plaintiff to file this action for quiet title on January 10, 2019. On February 15, 2019, defendant counterclaimed for quiet title, and alternatively claimed that they had acquired the disputed property through adverse possession, or had acquired a prescriptive easement for the continued use of the disputed property. The parties each obtained surveys of the property. The parties filed competing motions for summary disposition. The parties appeared before the trial court on November 13, 2019, to present their arguments. During oral arguments with respect to defendants’ claim of adverse possession, defendants conceded that the well was moved in 2005 so “[f]ifteen years has not elapsed on the well.” On December 4, 2019, the trial court issued an opinion and order granting summary disposition to plaintiff. Turning to whether defendants established superior title through adverse possession or prescriptive easements, the trial court concluded that they had not. The trial court further concluded that even if defendants established privity, they could not show that their possession was notorious or adverse because plaintiff’s property was vacant before she took title, and nothing supports that plaintiff or her predecessor-in-interest had knowledge of defendants’ “or their predecessors’ hostile claim.”

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Appellate courts review de novo a trial court’s grant of summary disposition. The trial court granted defendants summary disposition under MCR 2.116(C)(10).: A motion under MCR 2.116(C)(10) tests the factual sufficiency of the complaint. In evaluating a motion for summary disposition brought under this subsection, a trial court considers affidavits, pleadings, depositions, admissions, and other evidence submitted by the parties, MCR 2.116(G)(5), in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion.

ANALYSIS

Defendants argue that the trial court erred by granting summary disposition to plaintiff because, based on the White Survey, there is at least a question of fact whether plaintiff established title to the disputed property. We disagree. Plaintiff brought an action for quiet title under MCL 600.2932(1). “In an action to quiet title, the plaintiff has the burden of proof and must make out a prima facie case.” Plaintiff contends that she established title to the contested property by virtue of her recorded deed. In support of her claim, she produced the Kennedy Survey, which shows that there are encroachments on her property by defendants. In an attempt to counter plaintiff’s claim of title to the disputed property, defendants produced the White Survey, which they contend shows that the alleged encroachments are on their property, not plaintiff’s. Based on (1) the filing of plaintiff’s deed and (2) the Kennedy and White Surveys, there is no question of material fact that plaintiff has title to the disputed property. Once a plaintiff makes out a prima facie case of title, the defendant has the burden of proving superior title. Defendants argue that, assuming the disputed property is encompassed by plaintiff’s deed, there is at least a question of fact whether they acquired superior title to the property through adverse possession or a prescriptive easement. We disagree. Defendants acquired their property in 2015, so they could not have possessed the contested property for the required 15 years. This by itself is not dispositive, however, because “[a] party may ‘tack’ on the possessory periods of predecessors in interest to achieve this fifteen-year period by showing privity of estate.” Defendant’s deed does not reference the disputed property, and defendants do not contend that there were any parol statements made at the time of conveyance transferring the disputed property to them.  Thus, defendants cannot establish privity of estate, so they cannot tack on the possessory period of their predecessors in interest so as to satisfy the 15-year requirement for their claims of adverse possession or prescriptive easement. The trial court therefore properly dismissed defendants’ claims.

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