The Michigan Court of Appeals on Wednesday confirmed an earlier Wayne County Circuit Court ruling that the owners of the Ambassador Bridge don’t have the power to condemn property for access improvements being undertaken through an agreement with the state.
The higher court also cited a rarely heard legal principal, "the Absurd Results Rule," to reverse part of the lower court’s ruling, ordering the Detroit International Bridge Company to pay the cost of a decade long legal fight with the owners of a former duty-free store.
Appeals Court panel of judges Patrick Meter, Michael Talbot and Deborah Servitto wrote that the government never intended to extend its powers of condemnation to a private company so the expense the landowner had to bear to fight this unjust action should be born by the bridge company. To force the landowner to pay "would be patently absurd and unthinkable," the judges ruled in citing the Absurd Results Rule, which is applied to avoid results like this that are "manifestly inconsistent with legislative intent."
The bridge company had appealed the Wayne County Circuit Court ruling that threw out a condemnation lawsuit the company brought against the Commodities Export Company to obtain land the bridge owner claimed was needed for access improvements under agreement with the Michigan Department of Transportation. The company claimed the state’s powers to condemn property came with the state agreement. Both courts said the power belongs solely to the government.
–The power to take property requires a specific legislative authorization empowering the entity with condemnation authority. Here is a situation in which the court found that there was no statutory language allowing the private Detroit International Bridge Company to acquire by an eminent domain case.