Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Michigan Supreme Court
Kandil-Elsayed v. F & E Oil, Inc.
Two cases consolidated for the Michigan Supreme Court's review involved premises liability, specifically slip-and-fall instances where plaintiffs both argued while the hazards were open and obvious, they were unavoidable. In Case No. 162907, Ahlam Kandil-Elsayed filed a negligence action based on premises liability after she slipped and fell at a gas station defendant F & E Oil, Inc. operated. Plaintiff argued snow and ice on the premises constituted a dangerous condition. In Case No. 163430, Renee Pinsky tripped over a cable that had been strung from a checkout counter to a display basket at a local Kroger supermarket. In both cases, defendants moved for summary judgment arguing that because the hazards were open and obvious and no special aspects were present, they owed no duty of care to plaintiffs. The trial court granted defendant's motion in the former case, but denied defendant's motion in the latter case. The respective losing parties appealed to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court reversed summary judgment in both cases: although defendants in both cases owed a duty to the respective injured plaintiffs, there remained genuine issues of fact that were relevant to whether the defendants breached that duty and if so, whether plaintiffs were comparatively at fault and should have their damages reduced. The judgments of the Court of Appeals were reversed, and both cases were remanded for further proceedings. View "Kandil-Elsayed v. F & E Oil, Inc." on Justia Law
Sunrise Resort Association, Inc. v. Cheboygan County Road Commission
The plaintiffs brought this action after the defendant modified a storm water drainage system, allegedly causing flooding onto their property. The plaintiffs raised two distinct claims that remained at issue on appeal: a claim under the sewage-disposal-system- event (SDSE) exception to governmental immunity under the governmental tort liability act (GTLA), and a common-law trespass-nuisance claim seeking injunctive relief. The trial court dismissed both claims as untimely under the applicable three-year statute of limitations. Like the Court of Appeals, the Michigan Supreme Court disagreed, holding the SDSE claim, which sought relief only in connection with flooding that occurred within the three-year window, was timely. However, unlike the Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court concluded that because the defendant was immune with respect to the plaintiffs’ common-law trespass-nuisance claim, that claim was properly dismissed. In light of this holding, the Court vacated as unnecessary the Court of Appeals’ holding that the trespass-nuisance claim was timely. Finally, because the plaintiffs only sought injunctive relief in connection with that claim, their request for an injunction was invalid. Therefore, the Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment to the defendant with respect to the plaintiff’s SDSE claim, affirmed with respect to the common-law trespass-nuisance claim, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Sunrise Resort Association, Inc. v. Cheboygan County Road Commission" on Justia Law
Galvan v. Poon
Reyes Galvan and Minhwa Kim sued Yam Foo Poon, Hwai-Tzu Hong Poon, and Daniel Poon alleging fraud, misrepresentation, fraudulent concealment, silent fraud, innocent misrepresentation, loss of consortium, and breach of a warranty deed. In 2017, plaintiffs bought a condominium in Ann Arbor from defendants, and defendants transferred title to plaintiffs via a warranty deed. The deed warranted, among other things, that pursuant to MCL 565.151, the property was “free from all incumbrances.” While renovating the condominium, plaintiffs learned of several issues with the property, including that there was no proper firewall between their condo and the neighboring units, and that one of the defendants had signed a unit-modification form indicating that a wall had been moved and that a neighboring unit encroached on the upstairs bathroom of plaintiffs’ unit. Because the absence of a firewall violated the city’s building code, the City of Ann Arbor sued plaintiffs and their adjoining neighbors to enforce the code and require installation of firewalls. Plaintiffs were ordered to pay $18,000, in part to bring the walls of their unit into compliance with the building code, and they also spent additional funds to remediate other problems with the property. During a jury trial, defendants moved for a directed verdict on plaintiffs’ breach-of-warranty claim, arguing that the building code violations were not an encumbrance. The trial court agreed and directed verdict in favor of defendants on this claim. The jury subsequently found in favor of plaintiffs regarding their claims of silent fraud and loss of consortium. Galvan appealed the directed verdict, and the Court of Appeals reversed, finding the building code violations constituted an encumbrance in violation of the warranty deed. The Michigan Supreme Court reversed, finding that a violation of a building code at the time of sale, not yet subject to any official enforcement action, was not an encumbrance. View "Galvan v. Poon" on Justia Law
Stirling v. County of Leelanau
Plaintiff-appellant Mack Stirling lived in Leelanau County, Michigan since 1990. Petitioner’s wife, Dixie, owned two rental properties in Utah. The Stirlings filed joint tax returns for the pertinent tax years of 2016 to 2019. Neither Mack nor Dixie ever resided at the Utah properties. Instead, Dixie rented the properties to tenants who used the properties as their primary residences. Dixie claimed an applicable Utah tax exemption during the relevant tax years. Plaintiff applied for a principal residence exemption (PRE) on his Michigan home. Leelanau County denied the application because it concluded the Utah exemption rendered the Stirlings ineligible for the PRE. The Michigan Supreme Court disagreed: the Utah tax exemption at issue, which was available to landowners who rented their property to tenants, was not substantially similar to Michigan’s PRE, which was available only for a landowner’s principal residence. Accordingly, Plaintiff was eligible to claim the Michigan PRE. View "Stirling v. County of Leelanau" on Justia Law
Saugatuck Dunes Coastal Alliance v. Saugatuck Twp.
Appellant Saugatuck Dunes Coastal Alliance, argued that lower courts erred when they found that the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act (MZEA) denied it standing to appeal the decisions of the Saugatuck Township Planning Commission (Commission). Prior Court of Appeals decisions relied on by the Saugatuck Township Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) and lower courts repeatedly and erroneously read the term “party aggrieved” too narrowly. The Michigan Supreme Court held that the MZEA did not require an appealing party to own real property and to demonstrate special damages only by comparison to other real-property owners similarly situated. The Supreme Court overruled several Court of Appeals decisions to the limited extent that they required: (1) real-property ownership as a prerequisite to being “aggrieved” by a zoning decision under the MZEA; and (2) special damages to be shown only by comparison to other real-property owners similarly situated. The Supreme Court explained, to be a “party aggrieved” under MCL 125.3605 and MCL 125.3606, the appellant must meet three criteria: (1) the appellant must have participated in the challenged proceedings by taking a position on the contested proposal or decision; (2) the appellant must claim some protected interest or protected personal, pecuniary, or property right that will be or is likely to be affected by the challenged decision; and (3) the appellant must provide some evidence of special damages arising from the challenged decision in the form of an actual or likely injury to or burden on their asserted interest or right that is different in kind or more significant in degree than the effects on others in the local community. A portion of the Court of Appeals' judgment was vacated, and the case was remanded back to the circuit court for reconsideration in light of the Supreme Court's holding here. View "Saugatuck Dunes Coastal Alliance v. Saugatuck Twp." on Justia Law
Township of James v. Rice
James Township, Michigan filed a nuisance action against Daniel Rice , alleging Rice violated the township’s blight ordinance as well as the Michigan Residential Code by having junk cars, unpermitted construction, and fences of an improper height on his property. Rice moved to dismiss the portions of the citation related to the improper height of his fence and the unpermitted construction, arguing that, under the Right to Farm Act (RTFA), the township was prohibited from enforcing against farms or farm operations local ordinances governing those structures. The township opposed the motion, arguing that the property was not protected by the RTFA because it had not previously been used for farming. Following a hearing, the district court, found that Rice’s use of the property constituted a “farm” or “farm operation” for purposes of the RTFA and that the RTFA was an affirmative defense to those portions of the civil citation. The district court dismissed the specified portions of the citation and denied the parties’ individual requests for costs and fees. Rice moved for reconsideration, arguing that, under MCL 286.473b, he was entitled to costs and expenses, as well as reasonable and actual attorney fees; the district court denied the motion. The district court later dismissed the remaining portions of the citation and dismissed the action with prejudice. Rice appealed and the circuit court affirmed the district court’s order. The Court of Appeals denied Rice’s application for leave to appeal the circuit court’s order. In lieu of granting leave to appeal, the Michigan Supreme Court remanded the case to the Court of Appeals for consideration as on leave granted. On remand, in an unpublished per curiam opinion, the Court of Appeals affirmed the circuit court’s legal conclusions, holding that an award of costs , expenses, and fees was not mandatory under MCL 286.473b, but the Court of Appeals remanded the case to the district court for articulation of the district court’s reasons for the discretionary denial. The Michigan Supreme Court found no such discretion under the RTFA, and Rice was entitled to his fees. The appellate court’s judgment was reversed. View "Township of James v. Rice" on Justia Law
Campbell v. Department Of Treasury
Petitioner Andrew Campbell was a lifelong Michigan resident. For many years, petitioner claimed and enjoyed a principal residence exemption (PRE) on his Michigan residence. In late 2016, petitioner purchased a second home in Surprise, Arizona. Respondent Michigan Department of Treasury (Treasury), reviewed and denied petitioner’s PRE claim for his Michigan property for the 2017 tax year. In the ensuing dispute, the issue this case presented for the Michigan Supreme Court's review was whether a property owner was entitled to claim a PRE under Michigan tax law when the owner received a similar tax benefit for a home in another state. To this the Supreme Court concluded that petitioner was not entitled to the PRE. Specifically, under MCL 211.7cc(3)(a), a property owner “is not entitled to [the PRE] in any calendar year in which . . . [t]hat person has claimed a substantially similar exemption, deduction, or credit, regardless of amount, on property in another state.” Accordingly, the Court reversed the judgment of the Court of Appeals and reinstated the Department of Treasury’s October 2, 2018 decision and order of determination denying petitioner’s PRE for the 2017 tax year. View "Campbell v. Department Of Treasury" on Justia Law
Consumers Energy Company v. Storm
Consumers Energy Company filed an action against Brian and Erin Storm, and Lake Michigan Credit Union, seeking to condemn a portion of the Storms’ property for a power-line easement. The Storms challenged the necessity of the easement under the Uniform Condemnation Procedures Act (UCPA). The trial court concluded that Consumers had failed to establish the public necessity of the easement on the Storms’ property and entered an order dismissing Consumers’ action and awarding attorney fees to the Storms. Consumers appealed that order as of right to the Court of Appeals. The Storms moved to dismiss the appeal for lack of jurisdiction, arguing that under MCL 213.56(6), Consumers could only appeal the trial court’s public-necessity determination by leave granted. The Court of Appeals initially denied the motion by order, but the order was entered without prejudice to further consideration of the jurisdictional issue by the case -call panel. The Court of Appeals case-call panel issued an opinion in which it agreed with the Storms that the Court of Appeals lacked jurisdiction; the Court of Appeals therefore dismissed the portion of Consumers’ appeal challenging the trial court’s determination of public necessity. Despite dismissing the public-necessity portion of Consumers’ appeal, the Court of Appeals addressed Consumers’ challenge to the trial court’s award of attorney fees and vacated the attorney-fee award. The Michigan Supreme Court determined the Court of Appeals should have considered the condemning agency’s appeal as of right and reached the ultimate question of whether the trial court erred by holding that there was no public necessity for the proposed acquisition. “Therefore, it is not yet apparent that the proposed acquisition was improper such that the property owners would be entitled to reimbursement so as to avoid being ‘forced to suffer because of an action that they did not initiate and that endangered, through condemnation proceedings, their right to private property.’” Accordingly, the Supreme Court vacated the analysis construing MCL 213.66(2) in Part III of the Court of Appeals’ opinion, and remanded to that court for further proceedings. View "Consumers Energy Company v. Storm" on Justia Law
Township of Fraser v. Haney
Fraser Township filed a complaint against Harvey and Ruth Ann Haney, seeking a permanent injunction to enforce its zoning ordinance and to prevent defendants from raising on their commercially zoned property, hogs or other animals that would violate the zoning ordinance, to remove an allegedly nonconforming fence, and to plow and coat the ground with nontoxic material. Defendants brought a hog onto their property as early as 2006, and defendants maintained hogs on their property through the time this lawsuit was filed in 2016. Defendants moved for summary disposition, arguing that plaintiff’s claim was time-barred by the six-year statutory period of limitations in MCL 600.5813. The trial court denied the motion, concluding that because the case was an action in rem, the statute of limitations did not apply. The Court of Appeal reversed, finding that the statute of limitations applied. Finding that the appellate court erred in concluding the statute of limitations applied, the Michigan Supreme Court reversed and reinstated the trial court's order denying defendants' motion for summary judgment. View "Township of Fraser v. Haney" on Justia Law
2 Crooked Creek, LLC v. Cass Cty. Treas.
2 Crooked Creek, LLC (2CC) and Russian Ferro Alloys, Inc. (RFA) filed an action against the Cass County Treasurer, seeking to recover monetary damages under the Michigan General Property Tax Act (the GPTA) in connection with defendant’s foreclosure of certain property. In 2010, 2CC purchased property for development, but failed to pay the 2011 real-property taxes and, in 2013, forfeited the property to defendant. From January through May 2013, defendant’s agent, Title Check, LLC, mailed via first-class and certified mail a series of notices to the address listed in the deed. The certified mail was returned as “Unclaimed—Unable to Forward,” but the first-class mail was not returned. Meanwhile, 2CC constructed a home on the property, obtaining a mortgage for the construction from RFA. A land examiner working for Title Check visited the property; determined it to be occupied; and being unable to personally meet with any occupant, posted notice of the show-cause hearing and judicial-foreclosure hearing on a window next to the front door of the newly constructed home. Title Check continued its notice efforts through the rest of 2013 and into 2014, mailing various notices as well as publishing notice in a local newspaper for three consecutive weeks. After no one appeared on 2CC’s behalf at the show-cause hearing or the 2014 judicial-foreclosure hearing, the Cass Circuit Court entered the judgment of foreclosure. The property was not redeemed by the March 31, 2014 deadline, and fee simple title vested with defendant. 2CC learned of the foreclosure a few weeks later. In July 2014, 2CC moved to set aside the foreclosure judgment on due-process grounds. These efforts failed because the circuit court concluded defendant’s combined efforts of mailing, posting, and publishing notice under the GPTA provided 2CC with notice sufficient to satisfy due process. In an unpublished per curiam opinion, the Court of Appeals affirmed. 2CC moved to set aside the foreclosure judgment, filing a separate action in the Court of Claims for monetary damages under MCL 211.78l(1), alleging it had not received any notice required under the GPTA. After a bench trial at the Court of Claims and at the close of 2CC’s proofs, the court granted an involuntary dismissal in favor of defendant, holding, in relevant part, that 2CC had received at least constructive notice of the foreclosure proceedings when the land examiner posted notice on the home. 2CC appealed as of right, and the Court of Appeals also affirmed. Finding no reversible error, the Michigan Supreme Court affirmed too. View "2 Crooked Creek, LLC v. Cass Cty. Treas." on Justia Law