Michael and Alice Marlowe ("the Marlowes") appeal as of right the circuit court's order granting summary disposition in favor of the Oakland Township Parks & Recreation Commission and the Charter Township of Oakland ("the Township") pursuant to MCR 2.116(C)(10). We affirm.
The Township and the Marlowes own adjoining parcels of real property in Oakland Township, Michigan. At issue in this case is a portion of real property that is owned by the Township and "more commonly known as Cranberry Lake Park." According to the Township's complaint in this matter, the Marlowes "have placed certain equipment and materials, including landscape boulders, a propane tank, a trailer, a wheelbarrow and other items" as well as "repeatedly mowed fields and pathways, cleared trees, cleared brush, burned brush and engaged in other landscaping activities" on a portion of the property that is owned by the Township without the Township's "consent." The Township allegedly "sent multiple notices to [the Marlowes] over the course of many years repeatedly requesting that [they] discontinue the Landscaping and remove their Equipment and Materials from the Cranberry Lake Park Property," but it appears that those requests went unanswered. Consequently, the Township filed the instant lawsuit.
Specifically, the Township filed a four-count complaint against the Marlowes, alleging, in relevant part, claims of trespass and quiet title or ejectment. Ultimately, the Township sought a judgment "[g]ranting declaratory and injunctive relief," "[a]warding [the Township] any actual damages," and "[a]warding [the Township] any other legal or equitable relief to which they may be entitled, including costs, interest, and attorney fees." The Marlowes filed an answer, largely denying the complaint's allegations with respect to each claim but offering no further detail, and their affirmative defenses, asserting, in relevant part, that they had title or possession of the property at issue at all times relevant to the allegations in the complaint. Ultimately, the Marlowes requested that the trial court dismiss the Township's lawsuit with prejudice.
The Township eventually moved for summary disposition pursuant to MCR 2.116(C)(10) with respect to its trespass claim, arguing, in relevant part, that Mr. Marlowe "ha[d] admittedly been entering into Cranberry Lake Park to do landscaping work in the Park and to have access to assorted equipment and materials that he has placed within the Park" without the Township's "authoriz[ation]" to do so. The Township also moved for summary disposition pursuant to MCR 2.116(C)(10) with respect to its ejectment claim, arguing, in relevant part, that the Marlowes were unable "to claim title to a portion of Park property by way of acquiescence or adverse possession" or by "any form of prescriptive easement over any Park property" pursuant to MCL 600.5821(2). The Marlowes responded, arguing that summary disposition pursuant to MCR 2.116(C)(10) was inappropriate because "[t]here are multiple material questions of fact" as well as that the Marlowes are "equitable title holder[s] of the disputed portion" because they "ha[ve] historically and continuously maintained the disputed portion." In its reply brief, the Township argued, simply, that the Marlowes "ha[ve] failed to present any substantive admissible evidence that creates any question of fact as to [their] claim of adverse possession," "ha[ve] failed to present any substantive admissible evidence that creates a question of fact as to any of the elements on [their] claim of a prescriptive easement," and "ha[ve] failed to present any substantive admissible evidence of the claim [of acquiescence]. . . ."
To support their position, the Marlowes appear to have relied on three exhibits: (1) an affidavit by Sandra Hansen, (2) Mr. Marlowe's own affidavit, and (3) what appear to be images of the area of real property at issue. Frankly, none of these exhibits are helpful in any way to this litigation. According to Ms. Hansen, she has "lived in the area [near the Marlowes' and the Township's real property] for over twenty-five (25) years" and has "witnessed the Property [meaning the Marlowes' property, not the property at issue] to be used, cultivated, or maintained in the same or similar manner since for over thirty-five (35) years." Mr. Marlowe's affidavit includes his personal feelings about the lawsuit, e.g., "I Mike Marlowe, feel that the dispute between the Oakland Township Parks & Recreation and I is a violation of my rights . . .[,]" and a list of allegedly selfless acts he took on behalf of "all beings" to "provide a safer and cleaner environment." With respect to the images, it is difficult to determine what, if any, purpose they serve with respect to this lawsuit.
The trial court held a brief hearing on the Township's motion for summary disposition pursuant to MCR 2.116(C)(10), and the following exchange between the trial court and the Marlowes' counsel accurately reflects the trial court's reasoning behind its decision to grant the Township's motion:
A written order reflecting the trial court's decision was entered shortly thereafter. This appeal followed.
This Court has summarized the standard of review with respect to a trial court's decision to grant summary disposition pursuant to MCR 2.116(C)(10) as follows:
The Michigan Supreme Court has summarized the standard of review with respect to a trial court's interpretation and application of a statute as follows:
The parties' dispute in this matter focuses on the interpretation and application of MCL 600.5821, which, in its current form, provides as follows:
Applying the plain and ordinary meaning of MCL 600.5821(2)(c), it is quite apparent that, under its current form, the Marlowes' reliance on adverse possession, acquiescence, or prescriptive easements is obviously misplaced.
However, the statutory language quoted above was not effective until June 20, 2016, and is not addressed at all by the parties with the exception of the Township's brief on appeal. See 2016 PA 52. Prior to that date, however, the following statutory language of MCL 600.5821 was effective:
Applying the plain and ordinary meaning of MCL 600.5821(1)-(2), it is still apparent that, even under this previous form, the Marlowes' reliance on adverse possession, acquiescence, or prescriptive easements would be misplaced given the applicable period of limitations, or lack thereof, to such claims.
However, the previous form of the statute has only been effective since March 1, 1988, see 1988 PA 35, and it is the Marlowes' position that they, or at least the previous owners of their property, acquired title to the property at issue prior to that date. Prior to the 1988 amendment, MCL 600.5821 provided as follows:
Applying the plain and ordinary meaning of MCL 600.5821 as it existed prior to March 1, 1988, the Marlowes' reliance on adverse possession, acquiescence, and prescriptive easements could, in theory, have merit. This is because, as this Court has previously recognized, the amendments to MCL 600.5821, regardless of whether one is considering the 1988 or 2016 amendment, "cannot be applied to [a party] if it would abrogate or impair a vested right." Gorte v Dep't of Transp, 202 Mich.App. 161, 167; 507 N.W.2d 797 (1993).
Accordingly, the issue before this Court is whether a genuine issue of material fact exists as to whether ownership rights to the property at issue had vested to the Marlowes or their property's previous owner prior to March 1, 1973, 15 years prior to March 1, 1988. Gorte, 202 Mich App at 169 ("Thus, we conclude that if plaintiffs met all elements for adverse possession for a period of fifteen years preceding the effective date of the amended statute, plaintiffs' failure to earlier assert the claim in a legal action does not preclude them from now asserting title by virtue of adverse possession."). We conclude that there is not. Stated simply, the Marlowes did not provide any evidence to support their position that the previous owners of their property used the property at issue in a similar manner as they did prior to this litigation. As indicated above, the only evidence provided by the Marlowes before the trial court was Ms. Hansen's affidavit, Mr. Marlowe's own affidavit, and two images, and nothing in any of that evidence supports their position. In fact, both before the trial court and before this Court, the Marlowes state as follows with respect to the previous owner's use: "It can be presumed that the statutory period began to run on the previous owner upon using property beyond the boundaries of 600 west Predemore Road, prior to the amendment of MCL 600.5821." That is not true. This Court certainly should not make such a presumption, and Michigan law is clear in that mere speculation is insufficient to survive a motion for summary disposition. Libralter Plastics, Inc v Chubb of Ins Co, 199 Mich.App. 482, 486; 502 N.W.2d 742 (1993) ("However, parties opposing a motion for summary disposition must present more than conjecture and speculation to meet their burden of providing evidentiary proof establishing a genuine issue of material fact."). Accordingly, because nothing in the record supports the Marlowes' position, the trial court correctly granted the Township's motion for summary disposition pursuant to MCR 2.116(C)(10).