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Recent Michigan Court of Appeals Case Pertaining to Nuisance Abatement and How It is Impacted by the Statute of Limitations

Township of Fraser v. Haney, unpublished decision of the Michigan Court of Appeals, No. 337842, 2018 WL 6711290 (December 20, 2018).

The Michigan Court of Appeals recently released an unpublished opinion regarding nuisance abatement and the statute of limitations. Plaintiff filed a lawsuit seeking injunctive relief to abate a public nuisance. The Plaintiff claimed that the Defendants’ piggery violated the zoning ordinance as it was zoned commercial and not agricultural. Defendants filed a motion for summary disposition under MCR 2.116(C)(7) asserting that the claim was barred by the statute of limitations. The trial court denied Defendants’ motion, holding that this was an action in rem and that the statute of limitations did not apply. Defendants appealed. 
The Court of Appeals determined that because there was no indication that Defendants asserted the statute of limitations defense in bad faith, the delay in filing a motion to amend Defendants’ affirmative defenses would not be sufficient to warrant denying such an amendment. The Court then determined that the claim for injunctive relief to abate a public nuisance was subject to only a six-year statute of limitations which runs from the time the claim accrues. 
The Court stated that this is not an action against the property itself, but rather an action against specific persons seeking injunctive relief to force them to comply, and therefore, the Plaintiff’s claim is subject to the statute of limitations. The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s order and remanded the case back to the trial court to allow Defendants to move to amend their responsive pleadings to include the statute of limitations as an affirmative defense. 

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