Mich. Court of Appeals, No. 302385, March 25, 2014: Land trust did not tortuously interfere with owners business relationships.
In this litigation, the Glasses, who were subject to an unsuccessful attempt by the IRS to disallow a federal income tax deduction for a conservation easement the Glasses donated to the Little Traverse Conservancy Trust (LTC) (Glass v Comm’r of Internal Revenue, 471 F3d 698, 706 (CA 6, 2006), sued LTC and the Van Lokerens (neighbors and Mary Ann Van Lokeren became a member of the LTC board). At issue were actions of LTC and the Van Lokerens in connection with the Glasses’ attempt to sell land subject to the conservation easement. The Van Lokerens alleged these parties intentionally interfered with the Glasses’ sale of their property, tortuously interfered with the Glasses’ “business/economic relationships,” conspired to maliciously prosecute the Van Lokerens in a 2008 case brought by LTC and the Van Lokerens in connection with the attempted sale, and abused process by placing and maintaining a lis pendens on Glass’s property. The court affirmed a lower court decision and dismissed the Glasses’ claims.
The legal issues in this case are not particularly about conservation easements or land trusts, but the facts may offer perspective to holders of conservation easements and owners of land subject to conservation easements about activities by a land trust that could be alleged to be — but in the end were found not to be — tortuous interference with a business relationship, or creating a libel (or cloud) on title. The facts and circumstances can be found in the unpublished decision at http://publicdocs.courts.mi.gov:81/opinions/final/coa/20140325_c302385_64_302385.opn.pdf.