Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Maniaci v. Diroff

Supreme Court of Michigan

November 21, 2019

JEFFREY S. MANIACI, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
THOMAS DIROFF and MANDY DIROFF, Defendants-Appellees and KENNETH G. SILER AND TONYA L. SILER REVOCABLE LIVING TRUST DATED APRIL 3, 2013, Appellee.

         Argued on application for leave to appeal October 16, 2019

          Chief Justice: Bridget M. McCormack. Chief Justice Pro Tem: David F. Viviano. Justices: Stephen J. Markman, Brian K. Zahra, Richard H. Bernstein, Elizabeth T. Clement, Megan K. Cavanagh.

         OPINION

Page 56

         [505 Mich. 2] BEFORE THE ENTIRE BENCH

         PER CURIAM.

          This case involves the scope of an easement to traverse a piece of property (Parcel B) that separates a road (Vonda Lane) from the Tittabawassee River, also known at this location as Secord Lake. Pursuant to a June 18, 2015 consent judgment, the[505 Mich. 3] defendants[1] conveyed an easement across Parcel B for ingress and egress access to and from the Tittabawassee River to the plaintiff, Jeffrey S. Maniaci, and others. The consent judgment specified that the easement " may also be used for the temporary mooring and launching of watercraft, including by boat trailer, but may not be used for non-temporary mooring, docks, and/or wharfs."

          To decide this case, we must answer two questions. First, does the scope of the easement include backing a boat trailer all the way to the water's edge? Second, is it necessary for effective use of the easement to regrade the shoreline to allow such access by boat trailer?

          We answer both of those questions yes. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals, vacate in part the July 11, 2016 order of the Gladwin Circuit Court, and remand this case to the Gladwin Circuit Court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

          Michigan law on easements is well established. In Blackhawk Dev Corp v Village of Dexter, 473 Mich. 33, 41; 700 N.W.2d 364; 473 Mich. 33; 700 N.W.2d 364 (2005), quoting Little v Kin, 468 Mich. 699, 701; 664 N.W.2d 749; 468 Mich. 699; 664 N.W.2d 749 (2003), this Court reaffirmed " [a] fundamental principle of easement law" : the easement holder cannot " make improvements to the servient estate if such improvements are unnecessary for the effective use of the easement or they unreasonably burden the servient tenement." (Quotation marks omitted.) The Court also quoted [505 Mich. 4]Unverzagt v Miller, 306 Mich. 260, 265; 10 N.W.2d 849; 306 Mich. 260; 10 N.W.2d 849 (1943), for the related proposition that " the conveyance of an easement gives to the grantee all such rights as are incident or necessary to the reasonable and proper enjoyment of the easement." (Quotation marks and citation omitted.)

          Applying these legal principles, we have little trouble concluding that the unambiguous terms of the easement provide an express right to back a boat trailer to the water's edge. The consent judgment

Page 57

defines the easement as extending from the end of Vonda Road to the water's edge and states that the easement may be used for the " launching of watercraft, including by boat trailer . . . ." See ¶ 1 of the consent judgment (defining Parcel B, in part, as " to the water's edge of the Tittabawassee River" ); see also ¶ 2 (granting the plaintiff " an appurtenant non-recreational easement for ingress and egress access to and from the Tittabawassee River (a/k/a Secord Lake) across Parcel B to and from Vonda Lane " ) (emphasis added). Thus, the easement expressly includes the right to bring a boat trailer onto the property and to use the trailer to " launch" watercraft into the water. A lay dictionary includes as its first definition of the word " launch" " to set (a boat or ship) in the water." Random House Webster's College Dictionary (2003); see also Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (11th ed) (defining " launch" as " to set (a boat or ship) afloat" ). Because in order to " set a watercraft in the water, including by boat trailer," one must be able to bring a boat trailer at least to the water's edge, the scope of the easement must include the ability to do so.[2] We therefore disagree[505 Mich. 5] with the Court of Appeals' contrary conclusion that " just because it is not feasible to back a boat trailer all the way to the water's edge does not prevent the easement from being used to launch boats, including with the use of a boat trailer." Maniaci v Diroff, unpublished per curiam opinion of the Court of Appeals, issued May 15, 2018 (Docket No. 333952), p 5.

          We similarly have little difficulty concluding that the plaintiff's request to regrade the shoreline of Parcel B is " necessary to the reasonable and proper enjoyment of the easement." [3] Unverzagt, 306 Mich. at 265 (quotation marks and citation omitted). The appellee's counsel conceded at oral argument that it is currently not possible to set a boat in the water by boat trailer on Parcel B. The current slope of Parcel B therefore both prevents a boat trailer from being backed to the water's edge, a permitted use within the scope of the easement, and generally inhibits water access by making it difficult to get boats of any kind into the water.

          The plaintiff has an easement to launch boats, including by boat trailer, on Parcel B. He seeks to do just that by improving the land to facilitate easy access to the water by regrading the shoreline.[4] This the law [505 Mich. 6] gives him the right to do. We reverse the judgment of the Court of ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.