Court Upholds Option To Buy Farmland Despite Clear Language To The Contrary

This case is a qualified title action involving title to farmland.  The plaintiff conveyed various tracts of farmland to his father with the deeds to the tracts containing an option agreement that reserved to the plaintiff an option to buy the tracts "when the grantee no longer farms the land or decides to sell it or upon his death."  The value of the land upon exercise of the option was to be set at the lands' agricultural value.  While still farming, the father gifted the tracts to his four children equally.  Thus, none of the option-triggering events occurred.  Ten years later the father died and the plaintiff attempted to exercise the options.  The trial court held that the father's gift of the tracts eliminated the possibility of the plaintiff from exercising the options and, therefore, terminated them.   The court also cited other reasons the options were invalid.  On appeal, the court reversed, finding that the options "ran with the land."  A dissenting justice pointed out the absurdity of the majority's opinion.  The dissent pointed out that the trial court noted that the option agreements clearly set forth the three possible events that could trigger the options, and that if the plaintiff wished to exercise the options upon his father making a gift he should have included that language in the options that he drafted.  The dissent opined that the court should have given deference to the trial court as the fact finder in the matter that the option did not run with the land.  Kasben v. Kasben, et al., No. 314851, 2015 Mich. App. LEXIS 1056 (Mich. Ct. App. May 19, 2015).