This summary also appears under Real Property
Issues: Slander of title; MCL 565.108; MCL 600.2907a; Federal Nat'l Mtg. Ass'n v. Lagoons Forest Condo. Ass'n; "Falsity, malice, and special damages"; B&B Inv. Group v. Gitler; "Malice"; Gehrke v. Janowitz; Stanton v. Dachille
Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (Unpublished)
Case Name: North Lake Inv., LLC v. Drolett
e-Journal Number: 57964
Judge(s): Per Curiam – Saad, Owens, and K.F. Kelly
The court held that the trial court did not err in rejecting the plaintiff's claim for slander of title. Defendants originally sued a non-party, B, for defamation, and received a judgment in their favor. In attempting to collect on the judgment, they discovered that B had sold a property to plaintiff. As such, they sued plaintiff and B claiming it was a fraudulent conveyance, and filed a lis pendens on the property. During the litigation, plaintiff sued defendants claiming the lis pendens slandered its title to the property. The fraudulent conveyance suit was eventually dismissed, and the lis pendens was discharged. Plaintiff again sued defendants for slander of title claiming the lis pendens prevented it from selling the property at an earlier date. The trial court ruled for defendants, holding that plaintiff failed to produce any evidence to show that they possessed the requisite malicious intent or that they lacked probable cause to bring their fraudulent conveyance action, and thus, that plaintiff had failed to sustain a claim for slander of title. On appeal, the court rejected plaintiff's argument that defendants' fraudulent conveyance suit had no legal cause, and therefore, any lis pendens placed on the land because of that suit must be malicious and violate MCL 600.2907a. "The fact that [defendants'] claim may have been weak, and ultimately proved unsuccessful, does not demonstrate that it was filed out of malice. And, as the trial court noted, [they] did have 'probable cause' to support their claim: the accelerated payment of the five-year land contract, and deposition testimony that one of [plaintiff's] members had knowledge of the defamation suit before the final payout." Further, plaintiff "essentially asks us to re-find facts the trial court already correctly analyzed, which we cannot and will not do unless the trial court clearly erred." The trial court did not do so - "in fact, it handled the case with diligence and caution." Affirmed.
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