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Kang v. Systems Capital Real Property Corp.

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

April 30, 2019

Bo Kang, Plaintiff,
v.
Systems Capital Real Property Corporation and McDonald's Corporation, Defendants.

          Elizabeth A. Stafford, Mag. Judge.

          OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS [7]

          JUDITH E. LEVY, United States District Judge

         This is a case about an easement and the accompanying obligations for the easement holder. Plaintiff Bo Kang and defendants Systems Capital Real Property Corporation and McDonald's Corporation are adjacent property owners in Southfield, Michigan. They dispute whether an easement still exists and its attendant obligations. The purpose of the easement was for a sewer line to run under plaintiff's parking lot, the burdened parcel, and was used at some point by occupants on defendants' property, the benefitting parcel.[1] (Id. at 3.) The benefitting parcel required use of plaintiff's sewer line because it could not access the public sewer line on the nearby main road. (Id.)

         Plaintiff contends that an easement by necessity arose because defendants could not access the public sewer line. (Id.) He further pleads that he only learned of defendants' use of the sewer line when defendants asked him to sign a written easement in 2008, which he signed. (Id.) Plaintiff makes no additional mention of this written easement or whether it was terminated. Though plaintiff characterizes the easement as one by necessity, it appears equally likely that the easement exists expressly.

         On October 12, 2018, plaintiff filed a complaint in the Circuit Court of Oakland County alleging that the nonuse of the sewer line impairs the value of his property. (Dkt. 1-1 at 2.) Soon after, defendants removed the case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. (Dkt. 1.) Plaintiff filed an amended complaint on November 20, 2018. (Dkt. 2.) Before the Court is defendants' motion to dismiss the amended complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).[2] (Dkt. 7.)

         I. Legal Standard

         On a motion to dismiss, the Court must “construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and accept all allegations as true.” Keys v. Humana, Inc., 684 F.3d 605, 608 (6th Cir. 2012). “[A] complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). A claim is facially plausible “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. It need not contain “detailed factual allegations, ” but must contain more than “labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007).

         II. Analysis

         Plaintiff fails to state a claim because (1) it is unclear whether an express or implied easement by necessity exists, if an easement exists at all, and what law obligates defendants to remove the sewer line in either case, and (2) plaintiff fails to plead when his injury occurred, impermissibly evading the application of the statute of limitations.

         A. Easement and Accompanying Obligations

         Plaintiff maintains that defendants' nonuse[3] of the sewer line is the source of his injury and defendants are thus required to remove it. He fails to allege that an easement by necessity exists, but also appears to plead that an express easement exists. Regardless of whether an easement by necessity or express easement exists, plaintiff does not cite Michigan law, statutory or otherwise, to support his contention that defendants are obligated to remove the sewer line.

         An easement by necessity exists if the use is one of strict necessity, which requires that the easement be the only means available to achieve the user's desired ends. Charles A. Murray Tr. v. Futrell, 303 Mich.App. 28, 55-58 (2013) (reasoning that strict necessity is lacking where the plaintiffs claimed an easement by necessity to drive over the defendant neighbors' lots because a different, albeit more difficult, route existed that did not intrude on the defendants' lots). An easement by necessity may be lost in two ways: when the strict necessity justifying its use no longer exists, id. at 42 (citing Waubun Beach Ass'n v. Wilson, 274 Mich. 598, 609 (1936)), or through abandonment, Goodman v. Brenner, 219 Mich. 55, 60 (1922).

         If there were an easement by necessity in this case, it no longer exists according to the facts set forth in the complaint. It is clear that at some point, the occupants of defendants' property had an easement by necessity to build and maintain a sewer line because they could not access the public sewer line on the main road. Although the sewer line itself still physically exists, the defendants lost the easement by necessity because the strict necessity that previously justified the easement no longer exists, as demonstrated by the nonuse of the sewer line. As set forth below, defendants no longer have any of the obligations attached to the maintenance of an easement.

         Plaintiff claims defendants have an obligation to remove the sewer lin because Michigan law requires that the party benefitting from an easement bear the burden for maintenance and repair of the easement (Dkt. 1-1 at 6), but he fails to provide caselaw imposing any obligation, much less one to remove the subject of an easement by necessity, if the easement no longer exists. Indeed, defendants no longer have any property interest in the sewer line if the easement by necessity is gone. Therefore, to the extent plaintiff pleads that the ...


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