ANNE MCARDLE AND JOSEPH BAES WIN PARTIAL SUMMARY DISPOSITION IN $400,000 PROPERTY DAMAGE CASE
Rodger Spencer vs Yankee Construction, was a large property loss damage action between the property owner, and Defendants, tenants who occupied a portion of Plaintiff’s property for over a decade, pursuant to an oral agreement between the parties. In exchange for using a portion of the property for business purposes, Defendants performed general maintenance on the land for approximately 13 years. After evicting Defendants in 2018, Plaintiff filed a four-count complaint, alleging: (1) breach of licensing agreement, (2) waste to land per MCL 600.2919, (3) private nuisance, and (4) unjust enrichment. Damages claimed were in excess of $400,000.
We prepared and filed a partial motion for summary disposition, seeking to dismiss Count I as to breach of licensing agreement and Count II, waste to land, pursuant to MCR 2.116(C)(10), in addition to MCR 2.116(C)(7), as the waste to land claim was barred by the applicable 3-year statute of limitations.
As to the licensing agreement claim, Plaintiff asserted there was a written licensing agreement that was entered into after the original oral agreement. We argued that there cannot be a breach of licensing agreement where (1) there is no evidence to support a validly executed contract, as neither party had a signed version of the contract, and (2) where two unsigned versions of the contract are produced in discovery, each with different terms, there could not have possibly been a meeting of the minds between the parties. The Court delivered a written Opinion and Order, granting the dismissal of the breach of licensing claim, holding that even considering the evidence in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, there was no evidence of a contract entered into, or a meeting of the minds as to the contract in which Plaintiff was claiming breach.
As to the waste to land claim, Plaintiff alleged that Defendants cut down and/or carried away a large number of trees from the property, claiming treble damages under MCL 600.2919. Defendants produced evidence of aerial shots of the subject property from over the years, in addition to reliance upon Plaintiff’s expert report, to demonstrate the time frame in which the trees were no longer on the property. Based upon the evidence collected, we were able to show that the only trees that were removed from the property occurred prior to the applicable 3-year statute of limitations set forth in MCL 600.5805(2). The Court agreed with our argument and granted summary disposition pursuant to MCR 2.116(C)(7) as to the waste of land claim. The Court also granted summary disposition to Defendants under MCR 2.116(C)(10) as to the waste of land claim, agreeing with Defendants that there was no admissible evidence of tree removal.
Prior to our motion for summary disposition, there was a significant gap in the parties’ assessment of the settlement value of the case, resulting in an unsuccessful facilitation and case evaluation. Following the dismissal of these two counts, we were able to settle within authority as established at the beginning of the case.