GERALD MASON V CITY OF MENOMINEEAnnotate this Case
STATE OF MICHIGAN
COURT OF APPEALS
GERALD MASON and KAREN MASON,
February 26, 2009
Menominee Circuit Court
LC No. 02-010066-CH
CITY OF MENOMINEE,
Advance Sheets Version
Before: Saad, C.J., and Sawyer and Beckering, JJ.
In this action to quite title, defendant appeals as of right from the order of the circuit
court, on remand, quieting title to the disputed parcel of real property in favor of plaintiffs. We
This case is before this Court for the second time. In the prior appeal, we held that
defendant was the owner in fee simple of the disputed strip of land, but declined to address
additional theories raised but not addressed in the trial court. Mason v City of Menominee,
unpublished opinion per curiam of the Court of Appeals, issued September 12, 2006 (Docket No.
262743) (Mason I). On remand, the trial court determined that plaintiffs acquired the disputed
land under the doctrine of acquiescence.
In Mason I, this Court stated the pertinent facts as follows:
Plaintiffs are the owners of residential real property in Menominee,
Michigan. Defendant is the owner of real property surrounding plaintiffs’
property on three sides, commonly know as the Water Tower Park. At issue is a
60 foot strip of property, running north and south through the Water Tower Park,
which adjoins the eastern border of plaintiffs’ property. This property was
originally deeded to defendant for a proposed Twentieth Street. But Twentieth St.
has never been improved and, according to the trial court’s findings, had never
been used as a roadway. Plaintiffs have used a portion of the parcel as their
driveway extends onto it. Plaintiffs brought this action to quiet title over those
portions of the “right-of-way” that their driveway extends onto. [Id. at 1.]
Defendant argues that MCL 600.5821(2) shields municipalities from claims for the
possession of property based on the doctrine of acquiescence. We disagree. This Court reviews
equitable actions, such as an action to quiet title, de novo. Sackett v Atyeo, 217 Mich App 676,
680; 552 NW2d 536 (1996). Likewise, this Court reviews de novo a trial court’s conclusions of
law following a bench trial. Walters v Snyder, 239 Mich App 453, 456; 608 NW2d 97 (2000)
(Walters II). This issue also presents a question of statutory interpretation, which is a question of
law that this Court reviews de novo. Griffith v State Farm Mut Automobile Ins Co, 472 Mich
521, 525-526; 697 NW2d 895 (2005).
The primary goal of judicial interpretation of statutes is to ascertain and give effect to the
intent of the Legislature. Neal v Wilkes, 470 Mich 661, 665; 685 NW2d 648 (2004). The best
source for determining legislative intent is the specific language of the statute. Id. When the
Legislature has unambiguously conveyed its intent, the statute speaks for itself and judicial
construction is neither necessary nor permitted. Koontz v Ameritech Services, Inc, 466 Mich
304, 312; 645 NW2d 34 (2002). Courts must give effect to every word, phrase, and clause in a
statute and avoid an interpretation that renders nugatory or surplusage any part of a statute. Id.
Undefined words should be accorded their plain and ordinary meanings, and dictionary
definitions may be consulted in such situations. Id. Further, courts should “construe an act as a
whole to harmonize its provisions and carry out the purpose of the Legislature.” Macomb Co
Prosecutor v Murphy, 464 Mich 149, 159; 627 NW2d 247 (2001).
To fully interpret MCL 600.5821, both subsections 1 and 2 must be examined, they state:
(1) Actions for the recovery of any land where the state is a party are not
subject to the periods of limitations, or laches. However, a person who could
have asserted claim to title by adverse possession for more than 15 years is
entitled to seek any other equitable relief in an action to determine title to the
(2) Actions brought by any municipal corporations for the recovery of the
possession of any public highway, street, alley, or any other public ground are not
subject to the periods of limitations.
While subsection 1 applies to “[a]ctions for the recovery of any land where the state is a party,”
subsection 2 applies to “[a]ctions brought by any municipal corporations . . . .” It is evident
from the language employed in subsection 1 that the Legislature could have made subsection 2
applicable in all cases brought by or against a municipality. The Legislature, however, chose not
to do so. Further, interpreting subsection 2 to apply to any case in which a municipality is a
party would render the words “brought by” in subsection 2 nugatory. Finally, an acquiescence
claim involves a limitations period. Kipka v Fountain, 198 Mich App 435, 438-439; 499 NW2d
363 (1993). The term “periods of limitations” in MCL 600.5821(2) renders that provision
applicable to claims asserting acquiescence for the statutory period. Thus, because the language
of MCL 600.5821(2) prevents a private landowner from acquiring property from a municipality
by acquiescence only if the municipality brings an action to recover the property, it does not
preclude plaintiffs’ claim.
“[A] claim of acquiescence to a boundary line based upon the statutory period of fifteen
years, MCL 600.5801(4); MSA 27A.5801(4), requires merely a showing that the parties
acquiesced in the line and treated the line as the boundary for the statutory period, irrespective of
whether there was a bona fide controversy regarding the boundary.” Walters v Snyder, 225 Mich
App 219, 224; 570 NW2d 301 (1997) (Walters I). This theory of acquiescence does not require
that the possession be hostile or without permission as would an adverse possession claim. Id.
Further, “[t]he acquiescence of predecessors in title can be tacked onto that of the parties in order
to establish the mandated period of fifteen years.” Killips v Mannisto, 244 Mich App 256, 260;
624 NW2d 224 (2001). Although Michigan precedent “has not defined an explicit set of
elements necessary to satisfy the doctrine of acquiescence,” caselaw has held that acquiescence
is established when a preponderance of the evidence “establishes that the parties treated a
particular boundary line as the property line.” Walters II, supra at 457-458 (emphasis in
In this case, the record shows that both parties treated the fence as the boundary line.
Further, the plaintiffs satisfied the requisite 15-year statutory period because the acquiescence of
their predecessors in title can be tacked onto plaintiffs’ acquiescence of title. Killips, supra at
260. Thus, a preponderance of the evidence shows that plaintiffs established acquiescence for
the statutory 15-year period.
Because of the resolution of the above issues, we need not address plaintiffs’ issue on
cross-appeal, with the exception of plaintiffs’ argument regarding the taxation of costs. Plaintiffs
argue that they were the ultimate prevailing party; thus, they should be allowed taxable costs in
the amount of $1,887.65 against defendant. We disagree. This Court reviews for an abuse of
discretion a trial court’s decision on a motion for costs under MCR 2.625. Klinke v Mitsubishi
Motors Corp, 219 Mich App 500, 518; 556 NW2d 528 (1996), aff’d 458 Mich 582 (1998). An
abuse of discretion occurs when the trial court’s decision is outside the range of reasonable and
principled outcomes. Maldonado v Ford Motor Co, 476 Mich 372, 388; 719 NW2d 809 (2006).
Generally, MCR 2.625(A)(1) allows a prevailing party to tax costs. “The taxation of
costs is neither a reward granted to the prevailing party nor a punishment imposed on the losing
party, but rather a component of the burden of litigation presumed to be known by the affected
party.” North Pointe Ins Co v Steward (On Remand), 265 Mich App 603, 611; 697 NW2d 173
(2005). Although the decision whether to tax costs is discretionary, the authority to do so is
“wholly statutory” and “the prevailing party cannot recover costs where there exists no statutory
authority for awarding them.” Beach v State Farm Mut Automobile Ins Co, 216 Mich App 612,
621; 550 NW2d 580 (1996).
Plaintiffs first rely on MCL 600.2441(2) to establish their statutory authority, which
states, in pertinent part:
In all civil actions or special proceedings in the circuit court, whether
heard as an original proceeding or on appeal, the following amounts shall be
allowed as costs in addition to other costs unless the court otherwise directs:
(c) For the trial of the action or proceeding, $150.00.
Although plaintiffs requested this amount for the “remand proceeding,” subsection c allows a
trial court to award $150 in costs for “the trial of the action or proceeding . . . .” Here, the trial
occurred before the appeal in Mason I and there was no “remand proceeding” as plaintiffs assert.
Thus, the trial court did not abuse its discretion by failing to award the $150 in costs for the
Plaintiffs also argue that they were entitled to costs under MCL 600.2445(4) because they
“ultimately prevailed” in this action. That section pertains to appeals and provides, “[c]osts in
the court below may be awarded to the party who ultimately prevails in the case.” MCL
600.2445(4). Because the remand proceedings in the trial court did not constitute an appeal,
MCL 600.2445(4) does not apply to this case.
Plaintiffs further contend that costs were awardable under subsection 2 of MCL
600.2405, which provides:
The following items may be taxed and awarded as costs unless otherwise
(2) Matters specially made taxable elsewhere in the statutes or rules.
Plaintiffs claim that because costs for trial of the action were awardable under MCL 600.2441(2),
they should have been awarded on remand pursuant to MCL 600.2405(2). The trial of the action
occurred before defendant appealed the trial court’s ruling in Mason I. Although plaintiffs could
have filed a bill of costs following the trial court’s initial order that was appealed in Mason I, the
record does not indicate that they did so. MCR 2.625(F)(2) required plaintiffs to file a bill of
costs within a 28-day period. Thus, plaintiffs did not timely file a bill of costs and plaintiffs cite
no authority for the proposition that MCL 600.2405(2) rendered such costs taxable on remand.
Finally, MCL 600.2405(2) did not render costs taxable in this Court in Mason I properly
taxable on remand. Plaintiffs contend that they should have been awarded the $1,576.65 taxed
against them in Mason I. They also argue that MCR 7.219 (F)(1) entitled them to $61 in costs
for their appellate brief in Mason I and that MCR 7.219(F)(5) allowed them to tax $100 for a
motion fee in this Court in Mason I. MCL 600.2405(2) allows the taxing of costs authorized by
court rule. Giannetti Bros Constr Co, Inc v City of Pontiac, 152 Mich App 648, 657; 394 NW2d
59 (1986). Although these items are made taxable “elsewhere in the statutes or rules,” they are
taxable in this Court and not in the trial court. Plaintiffs cite no authority for the proposition that
MCL 600.2405(2) rendered costs taxable pursuant to court rule in this Court also taxable in the
It appears that plaintiffs are relying on subsection c because they requested $150 for the remand
proceeding as one of their taxable costs.
trial court on remand. Thus, the trial court did not abuse its discretion by denying plaintiffs’
Affirmed. Plaintiffs may tax costs on appeal, and defendant may tax costs on crossappeal.
/s/ Henry William Saad
/s/ David H. Sawyer