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REAL ESTATE 84: Defendants had a prescriptive easement to moor boats.

This case arises from a dispute over defendants’ rights to use a portion of plaintiffs’ riparian property.

HG originally owned all the property underlying the dispute in this case. In the mid-1960s, HG partitioned the property into three parcels. HG retained one of the parcels (the servient estate), which is the only parcel that abuts Higgins Lake. HG sold the other two parcels to in 1965. HG granted a 20-foot-wide easement across his parcel for access to Higgins Lake.

Easement

A dock that extended from the easement was thereafter installed, and it was utilized by the new owners as well as their family and guests. The easement dock was stored on the easement during the months that it was not in Higgins Lake. The new owners moored boats and installed boat hoists. They also used the easement for other recreational activities, such as sunbathing and picnicking. There is no evidence that HG or his son gave the new owners permission to engage in these activities.

Eventually, the servient estate was purchased on land contract by R.  R informed defendants that the language of the easement only allowed access to Higgins Lake and that no other uses of the easement or the area extending from the easement would be permitted. Defendants did not remove the easement dock.

Lawsuit

R filed suit, alleging that defendants had impermissibly used the easement for purposes beyond mere lake access. R requested declaratory relief and damages in relation to claims for trespass and nuisance.

Defendants argued that the grant of access to Higgins Lake included a full range of riparian or littoral rights, along with use of the easement’s beach area for recreational activities. In the alternative, defendants argued that they had acquired prescriptive rights to continue the challenged uses.

Trial Court / Easement by Prescription

The trial court held that defendants had a prescriptive easement for the seasonal installation and removal of the easement dock, to moor boats, and to engage in certain recreational activities on the easement. As a result, the trial court entered a judgment of no cause of action on plaintiffs’ claims for nuisance and trespass.

An easement by prescription is based upon the legal fiction of a lost grant, and results from action or inaction leading to a presumption that the true owner of the land, by his acquiescence, has granted the interest adversely held. An easement by prescription results from use of another’s property that is open, notorious, adverse, and continuous for a period of fifteen years. Thus, a prescriptive easement is no more than an unopposed, continuous trespass on another’s property for 15 years.

Assistance with Real Estate Litigation

Are you involved in a real estate dispute in Michigan? Are you seeking an efficient and effective resolution to a property litigation matter? If you are facing a residential or commercial real estate, seek the advice of an experienced and skilled real estate litigation attorney at Aldrich Legal Services in Plymouth.

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FAMILY LAW 88: The trial court found that the children did not have an established custodial environment with defendant because, before the separation, he did not have a large role in the children’s lives.

The trial court credited plaintiff’s testimony that, before the parties’ separation, defendant spent minimal time helping to care for the children, so its finding that the children would not have looked to defendant for guidance, discipline, the necessities of life, and parental comfort during that time was not against the great weight of the evidence.

REAL ESTATE 89: RM had not included any language in the deed providing that the property was a joint tenancy with full rights of survivorship, the property instead became a tenancy in common.

RM drafted the deed without seeking counsel and mistakenly believed that, if either she or FK died, the property would fully pass to the surviving tenant. FK’s will provided that if his wife predeceased him—which she did—the personal representative of his estate should sell any residual property that he owned and divide the cash proceeds equally among his surviving children.

FAMILY LAW 83: A trial court can terminate a parent’s rights and permit a stepparent to adopt a child.

A trial court has discretion to terminate a parent’s rights and permit a stepparent to adopt a child when the conditions of MCL 710.51(6) are met. MCL 710.51(6)(b) requires the petitioner to establish that the other parent had the ability to visit, contact, or communicate with the children, and substantially failed or neglected to do so for a period of two years.

PROBATE 53: The trust agreement included an Incontestability Provision.

A settlor’s intent is to be carried out as nearly as possible. Generally, in terrorem clauses are valid and enforceable. However, a provision in a trust that purports to penalize an interested person for contesting the trust or instituting another proceeding relating to the trust shall not be given effect if probable cause exists for instituting a proceeding contesting the trust or another proceeding relating to the trust.

FAMILY LAW 82: Court stated it would terminate the personal protection order (PPO) after the parties present documentation of the initiation of the divorce proceedings.

However, the trial court concluded that these matters should, in fact, be in the province and the jurisdiction of the Family Division and in that respect, having issued a personal protection order, the Court stated it would terminate the personal protection order after the parties present documentation of the initiation of the divorce proceedings.

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