Spiek v. Michigan Dept. of Transp.

Decision Date21 January 1998
Docket NumberNo. 15,Docket No. 104096,15
Citation456 Mich. 331,572 N.W.2d 201
PartiesRonald S. SPIEK and Peggy J. Spiek, Plaintiffs-Appellees, v. MICHIGAN DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, Defendant-Appellant. Calender
CourtMichigan Supreme Court

John J. Giannini, Detroit, for Plaintiffs-Appellees.

Frank J. Kelley, Attorney General, Thomas L. Casey, Solicitor General, Patrick F. Isom, Assistant Attorney General, Lansing, for Defendant-Appellant.

Law, Weathers & Richardson, P.C. by Robert A. Buchanan, Grand Rapids, amici curiae, for Kent County Aeronautics Board.

Kohl, Secrest, Wardle, Lynch, Clark & Hampton by Gerald A. Fisher, Farmington Hills, amici curiae, for Michigan Municipal League, and Michigan Townships Association.

Howard & Howard Attorneys, P.C. by James E. Lozier, Lansing, amici curiae, for Michigan Railroads Association and Association of American Railroads.


BOYLE, Justice.

We granted leave to appeal in this case to decide whether noise, dust, vibration, and fumes experienced by owners of property along an interstate freeway constitute a taking of a recognized property interest where the effects alleged are not unique or peculiar in character. We hold that such effects do not constitute a taking of a recognized property interest where the plaintiff fails to allege that the damages incurred are unique, special, or peculiar, or in some way different in kind or character from the effects incurred by all property owners who reside adjacent to freeways or other busy highways.

We reverse the decision of the Court of Appeals and reinstate the decision of the trial court granting summary disposition. 1 Plaintiffs' complaint fails to state a claim on which the relief sought may be granted. MCR 2.116(C)(8). 2


Plaintiffs Ronald and Peggy Spiek purchased residential property on Eleven Mile Road in the City of Warren in 1961, and have lived there ever since. Their property now abuts the service drive to Interstate 696. The service drive opened to traffic in 1976, and the section of the interstate running parallel to that service drive opened in 1979. The full extent of I-696, as we now know it, running continuously from Interstate 275 near Farmington Hills and Novi to Interstate 94 near St. Clair Shores, was completed and opened in 1989.

On April 20, 1990, plaintiffs filed a complaint against defendant Department of Transportation for inverse condemnation 3 in the Court of Claims, alleging that defendant's actions in locating the service drive adjacent to their property had "so interfered with Plaintiffs' quiet use and enjoyment of the property as to render it worthless, and to constitute a taking of property for public purpose without payment of just compensation, as required by the Michigan Constitution, Article 10, Section 3." 4 The complaint alleged that the defendant accomplished this taking by working

an essential change in the neighborhood [that] ... violated restrictive covenants in the subdivision ... [and] caused grave and serious damage to the value of the ... property by increasing dramatically the levels of noise, vibrations, pollution and dirt in the once-residential area ... [thus] destroy[ing] the desirability of the ... property as an area for living and ... destroy[ing] the acceptability of the property for residential purposes.

Defendant moved for summary disposition in the Court of Claims on April 23, 1991, pursuant to MCR 2.116(C)(7), (8), or (10), arguing that plaintiffs' claim of damages was barred by the three-year period of limitation applicable to actions in the Court of Claims, 5 and that plaintiffs' claim of damages for traffic noise, vibration, emissions, and dirt did not constitute a taking that would entitle them to compensation. The trial court granted the motion on the basis of the statute of limitations, holding that the case was controlled by a sixyear period. 6 Plaintiffs sought reconsideration, and the trial court reversed itself, ruling from the bench that a fifteen-year period controlled. 7 Plaintiffs' action was reinstated on September 10, 1991. 8

On February 26, 1992, defendant filed a second motion for summary disposition pursuant to MCR 2.116(C)(8) or (10). Consistent with its previous motion, defendant argued as follows:

5. Construction of I-696 and its service drive within the right of way abutting plaintiffs' property does not constitute a taking of plaintiffs' property. The type of injury alleged by plaintiffs is consequential and is suffered by all those whose property abuts a public highway.

6. Given the facts pled by plaintiffs, there is no legal support for plaintiffs' inverse condemnation claim.

7. Plaintiffs have failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

8. There is no genuine issue as to any material fact, and defendant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

In their response to defendant's motion, plaintiffs answered paragraph 5 as follows: "Plaintiffs deny that Defendant's actions do not constitute a taking, and further allege that to the extent that similarly-situated property-owners have been affected in a like manner, then they, too, are entitled to constitutionally-required just compensation."

The trial court heard oral arguments and granted the defendant's motion "as a matter of public policy." During oral arguments, the trial judge asked plaintiffs' counsel where or how to "draw the line" in this type of case. Ultimately, acknowledging difficulty with the question, the trial judge concluded that the plaintiffs' "property ... is not included under the circumstances of this type of case," and suggested that "a higher court [might] give us some better direction."

The Court of Appeals reversed:

[W]e conclude that the trial court erred in dismissing plaintiffs' claim without affording them an opportunity to establish that their use and enjoyment of their property has been detrimentally affected to a degree greater than that of the citizenry at large in conjunction with the normal use of the highway. If they can so establish, then they are entitled to compensation for the reasons and principles set forth in Richards [v. Washington Terminal Co., 233 U.S. 546, 554-558, 34 S.Ct. 654, 657-659, 58 L.Ed. 1088 (1914) ]. See also United States v. Causby, 328 U.S. 256, 260-262, 66 S.Ct. 1062 [1065-1066], 90 L.Ed. 1206 (1946). [212 Mich.App. 565, 568, 538 N.W.2d 74 (1995).]

In reaching this conclusion, the Court of Appeals reasoned as follows:

The trial court ... did not dismiss plaintiffs' claim because it believed there was not sufficient evidence to establish that plaintiffs' property was burdened, indeed it even acknowledged that plaintiffs had suffered an intrusion because of the highway, but rather it dismissed the case because it believed that "there is a certain burden that each of us must bear," that "we all use that highway" and it was "built for the common good." However, as Justice Potter said in [James S. Holden Co. v.] Connor, [257 Mich. 580, 596, 241 N.W. 915 (1932) ], if the public work is a public benefit, then the public should pay for it. [212 Mich.App. at 568, 538 N.W.2d 74.]

We initially disposed of this case by a peremptory order of reversal on the basis of MCR 2.116(C)(10). 453 Mich. 857, 552 N.W.2d 180 (1996). On plaintiffs' motion for reconsideration, we granted leave to appeal. 454 Mich. 903, 564 N.W.2d 44 (1997). We conclude that the Court of Appeals erred in its interpretation of the governing legal principles.


Appellate review of a motion for summary disposition is de novo. MCR 2.116(C)(8) tests the legal sufficiency of the claim on the pleadings alone to determine whether the plaintiff has stated a claim on which relief may be granted. The motion must be granted if no factual development could justify the plaintiffs' claim for relief. MCR 2.116(C)(10) tests the factual support of a plaintiff's claim. The court considers the affidavits, pleadings, depositions, admissions, and other documentary evidence submitted or filed in the action to determine whether a genuine issue of any material fact exists to warrant a trial. Singerman v. Municipal Service Bureau, Inc., 455 Mich. 135, 138, 565 N.W.2d 383 (1997). See also Skinner v. Square D Co., 445 Mich. 153, 160-161, 516 N.W.2d 475 (1994).

The defendant did not separately argue the standards under MCR 2.116(C)(8) and MCR 2.116(C)(10), and the trial court did not specifically state whether it was granting defendant's motion for summary disposition on the basis of subrule (C)(8) or (10). However, we conclude that review under subrule (C)(8) is appropriate because the factual record in this case is limited to the record made before the trial court. 9 We find nothing in the record to indicate that the trial court reviewed matters outside the pleadings; thus, our inquiry is confined to the analysis normally applied to a MCR 2.116(C)(8) motion. 10

We conclude that plaintiffs' complaint fails to state a claim on which the relief sought may be granted. Taking all plaintiffs' factual allegations as true, the complaint fails to allege an essential element of their cause of action: that the damage to their property is of a unique or peculiar character different from the effects experienced by all other similarly situated property owners. In other words, plaintiffs fail to allege an injury unlike that experienced by all who live in proximity to a highway. Thus, their case is barred by the well-accepted rule that property owners are not entitled to compensation for highway noise that is necessarily incident to proximity to a highway.


In deciding whether plaintiffs' complaint survived defendant's motion for summary disposition, the Court of Appeals reasoned as follows:

It has long been recognized that a diminution in the value of property where there is no direct invasion of the property, does not result in a taking that requires compensation. See Richards v. Washington Terminal Co., 233 U.S. 546, 554-558...

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