Michigan Land Division Act 288. Michigan easement laws


Land Division Act 288

Michigan Easement Lawsuit


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Presiding Judge Michael West, St. Clair Couty Court

Michigan easement caselaw

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Hello, I am Matt Fletcher. Everything on this web page is my opinion. Documents my families experiences with a lawsuit concerning Land Division Act 288 in Michigan. And the trial held in St Clair County Circuit Court, presiding Judge Michael West. This page was started on 4/24/16 and I am still working on it.

First a little about me just so you know who is writing this. I graduated with an AA Degree. Then received a BA degree from The University of Detroit, and a Masters degree from Wayne State University. I was a certified high school construction teacher before I started a company called Belle Isle Engineering. We inspect buildings for buyers, bankers and other institutions.

Overview of Facts

In the early 1980s the Fletcher family purchased 30 acres in 3 different 10 acre parcels in Kimball Township Michigan. The Fletcher family filed for and received a permit to install a culvert and gravel to access the property and used the easement for many years. The easement originally ran through a 3 acre vacant lot. Chuck Melms purchased the vacant lot (lot D on this map that the Fletchers' easement ran through and put a manufactured home on the 3 acre lot.

Charles "Chuck" Melms sued the Fletcher family over a 50 foot wide easement which runs though lot D on the map. Chuck Melms' lawyer, David Oppliger filed the suit claiming a 50 foot wide easement was for "walking only". David Oppliger dropped out of the case claiming health reasons and David Heyboer took over the case. Judge Michael West of the St. Clair County Circuit Court was the presiding judge. The Fletchers filed a motion to dismiss the case based on Land Division Act 288 and after discovering that the case had no legal merit and not factual basis. However, Judge Michael West ruled that the case could move forward and in our opinion, bent over backwards to help the Plaintiff Chuck Melms because his lawyers David Heyboer and Dave Oppliger were friends of the judge and very likely donated money to the judge's recent election campaign.

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Persons Involved:

  • Judge..... Mr. Michael West, St. Clair County Circuit Court
  • Plaintiff..... Mr. Charles "chuck" Melms
  • Plaintiff Attorney..... Mr. David Oppliger
  • Plaintiff 2nd Attorney.....Mr. David Heyboery
  • Defendant's Attorney..... Mr. Bruce Karash
  • Defendants:..... Matt Fletcher (me), Wilma Fletcher, (my 80 year old mother), Linda Fletcher, sister, Sandra Fletcher, sister, Joe Bokano, nephew, Angela Bokano Grissom, niece.
  • Put links to all docs in one place

  • The "Urban Legend"

    Because of some statements Chuck Melms and other people living in the area seemed to believe that would could not build a road on our 50 foot wide easement because the minimum size for an easement today is 66 feet last I checked.

    The trouble began when Chuck Melms and/or his renters began to block our tavel easement and I took these pictures of the small trailer, a camp fire pit, a swing set, lawn furniture and other debris blocking the easement. I personally asked the renters to move the items nicely several times and they did not. From talking to the people in the area around our 30 acres we were under the impression that local residents believed that we could never build a road on the 50 foot wide easement because the county has increased the minimum easement size from 50 to 66 feet. We knew the size of the easement was grandfathered in. We also believed that Mr. Melms was attempting to adversely possess our easement by using it for his campsite even though he had narly 3 acres of land and had plenty of other space for his campsite. We finally called the sheriff and moved the items blocking our easement ourselves. Chuck Melms claims he never tried to block the easement. You can look at the photos, and consider the fact that he sued us to stop us from using the easement, and make your own decision about if he was trying to block the easement or not.

    The Complaint

    In November of 2011 Mr. Chuck Melms hired Port Huron Attorney David Oppliger to send us a letter claiming that our 50 foot wide easement was for "walking only" and we could not drive on the easement ever again. David Oppliger cited two previous easment lawsuits: Killips v Mannisto and Stolte v Krentel. On page 2 of the letter, paragraphs 2 and 3, Mr. Oppliger states that the easement does not allow vehicular traffic. If this were true, it would of course make our property pretty much worthless to anyone but Mr. Melms since he would have the only access. This was not Mr. Melms first court action in St. Clair County. It wasn't his second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, nineth or tenth. Not his eleventh, twelth, thriteenth, fourteenth, fifteenth, sixteenth or seventeenth, or eighteenth. It was his nineteenth. nineteenth. I pointed this out to the judge on many times but he didn't seem to care.

    In September of 2012, David Oppliger filed a lawsuit complaint against the FRONT 10 acre parcel claiming in item 13 of complaint that we had made deep ruts on our easement. Item 14 of complaint, we tried to prevent Mr. Melms from mowing the grass on the easement. Also, item 16 of complaint, no motorized vehicles can drive on the easement. The day of the trial, Mr. Chuck Melms would DENY he said or agreed with any of this. (PUT LINK TO TRANSCRIPT HERE WITH PAGE NUMBER)

    Our lawyer Bruce Karash was a great help...to the people suing us.

    Lawyer, David Oppliger did not realize that there were actually three parcels of 10 acres each which were dependent on the easement. My relatives hired lawyer Bruce Crash to defent the lawsuit for us and I gave one check of $200.00to my relatives to help pay the legal fees for Mr. Crash. I told my relatives THINK that Mr. Oppliger had made a mistake and he should have file a lawsuit against all three parcels of land since they all depend on that easement. My relatives mentioned that to Mr. Crash and our lawyer, Mr. Bruck Crash of St. Clair Shores Michigan called the lawyer suing us, David Oppliger, and told him about the other two parcels and so....David Oppliger apparently thought I was correct so he sued the rest of my family owning the other two lots. When Mr. Crash told me he had done that I pretty mad. I thought to myself..."this guy is a total idiot" he was just a huge help to the people suing us!!! Bruce Crash actually seemed pretty proud of himself...he didn't realized that I was one that figured out that all the parcels needed to be sued. Mr. Crash was pretty old and I often wondered if he rembered which side he was working for.

    Several months passed with not much happening. My sister called me and said our lawyer, Bruce Crash asked us to find some expert witnesses for the upcoming trial. Apparentley he didn't know of any and I doubt he had ever tried a case like this before. I was asked to find the expert winesses because I am in the construction business. I made an appointment to see a civil engineer and PE (Professional Engineer) I know by the name of Joe Vaglica. Joe Vaglica also teaches construction courses at Wayne State University and Macomb Community College.

    Land Division Act 288

    Joe Vaglica and I met for lunch and I showed him the complaint that lawyer David Oppliger had filed on behalf of his client, Chuck Melms. The first thing out of Joe's mouth was, "this is a frivolous lawsuit, all parcels of land must have vehicular access, it's state law. I forget what the law is, but there's a law." The next thing Joe Vaglica said was, "Don't you have title insurance?" I told Joe we did and showed him my copy. Joe said, "Why didn't you turn this into your title insurance?....I think they should cover this."

    I went back to my office and "googled" a few times but could not find the law Joe had mentioned about a parcel of land being REQUIRED to have vehicualr access under state law. I also went on a website called www.expertlaw.com to ask lawyers about this. WOW...I got nothing but bad information. Here is one reply I received from someone professing to 'know' about this:

    "It's perfectly legal to sell landlocked property. If you split a parcel such that the rear parcel is landlocked, but neglect to provide an easement, the law will normally infer that you intended to grant an easement. But if you knowingly buy a landlocked parcel to which no easement rights can be claimed (e.g., where the only route of access was lost due to eminent domain) you should expect to have to pay whatever your neighbor(s) charge to grant you an easement for access."

    I called my business lawyer who is a very experienced trial attorney and asked him if he could find this law and it took him about 15 minutes to find it. The law is called Land Division Act 288. And yes, it is illegal to "landlock" parcels of land in Michigan and land must have vehicular access.

    Land Division Act 288 states the following on page 2:

    "(g) "Parcel" means a continuous area or acreage of land which can be described as provided for in this act. (h) "Tract" means 2 or more parcels that share a common property line and are under the same ownership. (i) "Parent parcel" or "parent tract" means a parcel or tract, respectively, lawfully in existence on the effective date of the amendatory act that added this subdivision. (j) "Accessible", in reference to a parcel, means that the parcel meets 1 or both of the following requirements: (i) Has an area where a driveway provides vehicular access to an existing road or street and meets all applicable location standards of the state transportation department or county road commission under 1969 PA 200, MCL 247.321 to 247.329, and of the city or village, or has an area where a driveway can provide vehicular access to an existing road or street and meet all such applicable location standards. (ii) Is served by an existing easement that provides vehicular access to an existing road or street and that meets all applicable location standards of the state transportation department or county road commission under 1969 PA 200, MCL 247.321 to 247.329, and of the city or village, or can be served by a proposed easement that will provide vehicular access to an existing road or street and that will meet all such applicable location standards."

    Title Insurance? What title insurance?

    I also sent a copy of the title insurnace title insurance to my attorney and asked him if he thought they should cover this lawsuit....he is very experienced in insurance, he read the title insurance and said yes, they should cover it. Our lawyer, Mr. Bruce Crash knew we had title insurance, we gave him a copy. I wondered why Mr. Bruce Crash would not tell us this...until I read the title insurance. It said, the title company had the right to pick the lawyer to defend the case. I believe Mr. Bruce Crash was afraid of losing the case to another attorney and was more interested in making money rather than doing what was West for us. I fired Mr. Bruce Crash as my attorney and never gave my relatives another dime to pay him. Mr. Crash had: Not told us that the title insurance should be covering the expenses of this case, strike ONE. Mr. Crash told the other side to sue the owners of the other two 10 acre parcels (me), strike TWO. And Bruce Crash was too dumb or lazy to look up the law or consult with another attorney and realize that Land Division Act 288 required that all parcels of land have vehicular access. My mom also fired Bruce Crash but the rest of my relatives were too dumb to do so. They later regreted it.

    My cousin Vinney

    I consulted with my attorney frequently but reprsented myself in court from here on out. Mr.David Oppliger had not actually filed suit on me or my parcel of land yet so I was not technically involved in the case. Dave Oppliger filed a motion to amend his complaint to sue the other two parcels of land. I showed up with my mom at the hearing...they weren't expecting us to be there.

    I had looked Attorney Dave Oppliger in the St. Clair County website and noticed that he had only been involved in 12 lawsuits. I thought perhaps he had just moved to Port Huron. But the day of his motion hearing, in a nearly empty courtroom, when Dave Oppliger began talking in front of the court, he began to stammer. He just couldn't get the words out. It was literally like that scene in the movie "My Cousin Vinney" and I am not exagerating. I later looked Dave Oppliger up on the Internet and read some of his customer reviews and they had said the same, he stammered in court. Now I knew why Dave Oppliger was involved in so few actual lawsuits where he had to get up and argue a case. I am not making fun of Dave Oppliger, this is important because it comes up as an issue later. We filed a jury demand and Judge Michael West of the St. Clair County Circuit Court DENIED us a jury trial. Several people I spoke to about this did not even know that was possibe. It is very unusual. My lawyer said this is the only case in 19 years of practice that he saw a judge deny someone a jury trial. I believe Judge West denied us a jury trial and made it a bench trial because he knew Dave Oppliger, knew he stammered even in a nearly empty courtroom, knew there was no way he could argue a case in front of a full jury. And last but not least, Dave Oppliger had likely donated to Judge West's election campaign.

    After the hearing, Dave Oppliger wanted to speak to us. He spoke almost normally when not in front of the court. And I told him that we had not caused the ruts on our easement (Mr. Melms land) the renter living there did it and we had a witness. I told Dave Oppliger that we had come up to file a motion to have his case dismissed based on Land Division Act 288...no such thing as a 50 foot wide walking easement to 30 acres of land. He looked at me dazed and confused and said, "sounds like a good law." We filed to have the case dismissed and in his response to the motion for dismissal, lawyer Dave Oppliger lied, began arguing the OPPOSITE OF WHAT WAS IN HIS ORIGINAL COMPLAINT, HE CHANGED HIS ARGUMENT THAT I WAS CORRECT, LAND DIVISION ACT 288 REQUIRED THAT WE BUILD A ROAD, WE HAD NOT AND THEREFORE COULD NOT USE THE EASEMENT. Dave Oppliger also wante me held in comtempt of court for practicing law without a license. LOL

    Mr. Melms' renters damaged the easement, not the Fletchers. So, I wonder why David Oppliger's complaint said the Fletchers had done it.

    To be continued...I am still working on this page. To cover: contempt of court, 6 weeks later, judges order, judge said, "they just drove around it, not blocked"

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