Case Study: OLC Reclaims Riparian Rights for Lake Front Property by Court Decision

For Immediate Release | Posted November 02, 2013

After litigating for more than a year, Outside Legal Counsel PLC has re-established deeded-away riparian rights to the shorelands of an inland lake in West Michigan. The court's ruling paves the way for the landowner to begin enjoying full riparian rights, including maintaining a seasonal dock.

Background of Case
In 1975, the predecessor landowner, a development company, owned land surrounding a 500 acre lake in West Michigan. The development company retained a 300' parcel of water-front while conveying the remaining lands around the lake to other private owners and a homeowners association. At that time, the parties were in the midst of litigation and part of that settlement included the development company conveying the entire lake-bottom to the homeowners association. By conveying the lake-bottom, the subsequent owner of a portion of the original 300' parcel was denied riparian rights by the homeowners association. The landowner had purchased a beautiful piece of water-front property which, given the association's position, had no riparian rights.

Background on Riparian Rights
A landowner whose land touches the water’s edge has riparian/littoral rights. Numerous valuable rights are tied with riparian property including access to lake waters, boating, swimming, water skiing, fishing, ice skating or sledding or to engage in other aquatic sports, and to use the entire surface and subsurface lake waters in a reasonable manner.

These rights also permit erecting and maintaining a dock and erect bathing houses and structures for business or pleasure.

Critically, riparian (littoral) property rights also include the automatic riparian-right of ownership of certain portions of the sub-aquatic land (i.e. lake bottom land). Upon this sub-aquatic land, riparians may then install seasonal or permanent docks.

Legal Action
Outside Legal Counsel, by its riparian rights attorney Philip L. Ellison, argued under Michigan law, particularly Thompson v Enz and Little v Kin, riparian rights cannot be transferred away from riparian shorelands and title ought to be quieted in the landowner's favor as having superior title pursuant MCL 600.2932. The court agreed and granted the landowner summary disposition instead of having trial, fully accepting and adopting OLC's argument.

When a landowner is confronted by an adverse previous deed, said deed may be legally invalid and can be challenged and reviewed in a court of law.


Outside Legal Counsel PLC is a law firm located in the Great Lakes Bay Region providing legal representation on issues involving land, water, and property rights throughout Michigan. Find out more by visiting



PO Box 107
Hemlock, MI 48626
(989) 642-0055
(888) 398-7003 - fax

Licensed to practice before all Michigan State Courts, the Michigan Court of Appeals, the Michigan Supreme Court, the Saginaw Chippewa Tribal Court, the US District Courts for the Eastern and Western Districts of Michigan, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, and the United States Supreme Court.


Philip L. Ellison, MBA, JD


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P. Ellison [PNG]