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New Products Corp. v. Harbor Shores BHBT Land Development, LLC

Court of Appeals of Michigan

December 23, 2014

NEW PRODUCTS CORPORATION, Plaintiff/Counter Defendant-Appellant,
v.
HARBOR SHORES BHBT LAND DEVELOPMENT, LLC, Defendant/Counter Plaintiff/Third-Party Plaintiff-Appellee, and HARBOR SHORES GOLF COURSE, LLC, Defendant/Counter Plaintiff-Appellee, and WHIRLPOOL CORPORATION, MICHIGAN MAGNET FUND E, LLC, CITY OF BENTON HARBOR, and HORIZON BANK, Defendants-Appellees, and BENTON CHARTER TOWNSHIP and HORIZON BANCORP, Defendants, and LARRY ALLEN HEALD and HEIDI HEALD, Third-Party Defendants

Page 851

Berrien Circuit Court. LC No. 2011-000280-CH.

For NEW PRODUCTS CORPORATION, Plaintiff-Counter Defendant-Appellant: MARK S DEMOREST, OAK, MI.

For HARBOR SHORES BHBT LAND DEVELOPMENT LLC, Defendant-Counter Plaintiff-Third Party Plaintiff-Appellee: MARK E KRETER, CREEK, MI.

For HARBOR SHORES GOLF COURSE LLC, Defendant-Counter Plaintiff-Appellee: JOHN G CAMERON, GRAND RAPIDS, MI; K SCOTT HAMILTON, DETROIT, MI.

For WHIRLPOOL CORPORATION, Defendant-Appellee: JOHN G CAMERON, GRAND RAPIDS, MI; K SCOTT HAMILTON, DETROIT, MI.

For MICHIGAN MAGNET FUND E LLC, Defendant-Appellee: JOHN G CAMERON, GRAND RAPIDS, MI; K SCOTT HAMILTON, DETROIT, MI.

For BENTON CHARTER TOWNSHIP, Defendant: DONALD DETTMAN, HARBOR, MI.

For HORIZON BANK, Defendant-Appellee: MARK E KRETER, BATTLE CREEK, MI.

For HEALD LARRY ALLEN, Third Party Defendant: ROBERT W O'BRIEN, GRAND RAPIDS, MI.

For HEALD HEIDI, Third Party Defendant: ROBERT W O'BRIEN, GRAND RAPIDS, MI.

Before: M. J. KELLY, P.J., and BECKERING and SHAPIRO, JJ.

OPINION

Page 852

[308 Mich.App. 640] M. J. Kelly, P.J.

In this real property dispute, plaintiff, New Products Corporation, appeals by leave [308 Mich.App. 641] granted the trial court's order granting the motion by defendants Harbor Shores BHBT Land Development, LLC (Harbor Shores Development) and Horizon Bank asking the trial court to limit the issues to be tried by a jury. On appeal, the sole question is whether the trial court erred when it determined that Michigan's Constitution does not guarantee the right to a jury trial on each of New Products' claims. We conclude that the trial court did not err when it determined that New Products' claims, other than its trespass claim, were equitable and had to be decided by the trial court. Accordingly, we affirm the trial court's order and remand for further proceedings.

I. BASIC FACTS

In 1950, Elwood and Evelyn McDorman owned a 250-foot-wide parcel of land running south from Higman Park Road to the then existing channel of the Paw Paw River, which served as the boundary between the city of Benton Harbor (Benton Harbor) and Benton Charter Township (the Township). At around that time, engineers relocated the river approximately 500 feet north. To facilitate the relocation, Benton Harbor purchased a right of way over the McDormans' land for the new channel and transferred to them a 250-foot-wide parcel located to the south of their existing parcel. After that transfer, the McDormans owned a 250-foot-wide strip of land extending from Higman Park Road in the north to Klock Road in the south. The parcel in dispute is that part of the McDormans' land that was located in the Township before the relocation of the river, but which is now south of the relocated river.

New Products owns and operates a manufacturing facility in Benton Harbor along Klock Road. In 1955, New Products acquired the parcel that Benton Harbor [308 Mich.App. 642] transferred to the McDormans as part of the project to relocate the river along with the disputed parcel. Benton Harbor taxed both parcels and New Products paid the taxes. However, the Township continued to tax the disputed parcel and listed the taxpayer of record as Frank Hoffman.

In 1970, the Township foreclosed against Hoffman's property for unpaid taxes. The state acquired the property, but transferred it back to Hoffman in 1973. Larry and Heidi Heald acquired the property from Hoffman and his co-owners in 1991. Harbor Shores Development then purchased the disputed parcel from the Healds in 2007.[1] As part of a large development project, Harbor Shores Development conveyed a portion of the disputed parcel to Benton Harbor and a portion to defendant Harbor Shores Golf Course,

Page 853

LLC (Harbor Shores Golf). Harbor Shores Golf then constructed a golf course, which included the disputed parcel.

In September 2011, New Products sued Harbor Shores Development, Harbor Shores Golf, Benton Harbor, the Township, and other parties that might claim an interest in the disputed parcel. New Products alleged that it was the rightful owner of the parcel and that Harbor Shores Development and Harbor Shores Golf wrongfully constructed and maintained a golf course on it. It asked the trial court to permanently enjoin Harbor Shores Development, Harbor Shores Golf, and Benton Harbor from trespassing on the disputed parcel and to quiet title to the parcel in New Products. Finally, New Products asked the trial court to declare that none of the defendants have any interest in the parcel and declare that it falls within Benton Harbor's ...


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