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e-Journal Summary
Opinion Date: 06/03/2011
e-Journal Date: 06/07/2011
Full Text Opinion

Practice Area(s):   Municipal
Real Property

Issues: Quiet title; Whether a plaintiff who seeks to establish an adverse possession claim that would affect property in a recorded plat must file a claim under the Land Division Act (LDA)(MCL 560.101 et seq.) if the plaintiff is not expressly requesting that the plat be vacated, corrected, or revised; Martin v. Beldean; Walker v. Bowen; Sanscrainte v. Torongo; MCL 600.5801; Burns v. Foster; Gorte v. Department of Transp.; Miller v. Miller; Zabowski v. Loerch; Escher v. Bender; "Plat"; MCL 560.102(a); MCL 560.206(1); MCL 560.222; MCL 560.223; MCL 560.223(b); Tomecek v. Bavas; Hall v. Hanson
Court: Michigan Supreme Court
Case Name: Beach v. Township of Lima
e-Journal Number: 48982
Judge(s): Young, Jr., M. Kelly, Hathaway, M.B. Kelly, and Zahra; Dissent - Markman and Cavanagh

The court held that an action that seeks to establish a substantive property right arises independently of an LDA action to vacate, correct, or revise a recorded plat. It is only after such a property right is recognized that the need arises under the LDA to revise a plat that does not reflect the newly recognized property right. Until that property right is legally recognized, the LDA is inapplicable. The language of the LDA and cases analyzing the LDA establish that an LDA action is appropriate when a party's interest arises from or is traceable to the plat or the platting process. An action to quiet title by adverse possession confers judicial recognition that the possessor acquired marketable title of record to the property. A successful quiet title action also establishes a substantive property right that was not previously shown within the plat. Without possessing record title to the property, no one, including plaintiffs, had a basis on which to request an alteration of the plat under the LDA. Thus, plaintiffs were not required to file their action under the LDA. The dispute arose from a disagreement between plaintiff-Florence Beach and the defendant-township over property rights to areas of land shown as platted streets on a village plat. The plat, which was made and recorded in 1835, has remained unaltered since its execution. Through several conveyances that occurred in 1854, 1881, and 1897, the Beach family acquired the area of land now known as the Beach Family Farm. In 1954 the township purchased lots and in 2004, the township purchased several more lots intending to build a fire department substation. The township also intended to use and develop roads for ingress and egress to the substation. Plaintiffs disputed the township's right to use the undeveloped property designated as streets on the plat and filed to quiet title based on adverse possession. The trial court held that the plaintiffs established the elements of adverse possession and that they did not have to proceed under the LDA. The Court of Appeals affirmed. The court concluded that the dispute concerned "the establishment of a substantive right neither reflected in the plat nor traceable to the platting process." The court held that plaintiffs, who filed an action to quiet title based on adverse possession, were not required to proceed with an action under the LDA. Their "title action was the appropriate action to establish their entitlement to hold record title to the property at issue. Because plaintiffs' quiet title action established a substantive property right that was not reflected in the plat or traceable to the platting process, their action involved more than merely correcting the plat to reflect a preexisting interest in land." While they could have filed an action under the LDA contingent on establishing their substantive right in a quiet title action, they were not required to do so because they did not expressly request the alteration of the plat and because their quiet title action established a substantive property right for the first time. The court affirmed the judgment of the Court of Appeals. However, it ordered the trial court to strike the portion of its order that corrected the plat to reflect plaintiffs' successful quiet title action because plaintiffs did not request that relief.

 

The dissent believed that since plaintiffs' quiet-title action necessarily sought to "vacate, correct, or revise" the plat, they should have been required to bring their cause of action pursuant to the LDA. If plaintiffs wished to proceed under the LDA, they should be allowed to amend their complaint and to add all necessary parties. The dissenting justices believed that the majority's contrary interpretation undermined "the primary purpose of the LDA, which is to ensure that plats on file remain accurate" and its holding "will introduce greater uncertainty and instability into this state's property law, while incentivizing artful pleadings and gamesmanship. Under the law of this case, Michigan plats are destined over time to become increasingly more inaccurate and increasingly less reflective of actual property interests in this state." Thus, they respectfully dissented and would reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals.

Full Text Opinion

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