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Tort Action Against a Governmental Entity

Municipal / October 9, 2019

Court/Case No: Macomb County Circuit Court/18-003390-NI

Tried/Argued Before: Judge

Demand: No formal demand. Complaint indicates only an amount greater than $25,000.00

Verdict: $0 – Motion for summary disposition granted

Name of Judge(s): Honorable James M. Maceroni

Keys to the Case:

On August 3, 2017, pursuant to MCL 691.1402a, Plaintiff filed her Notice of Claimed Sidewalk Defect alleging that on June 20, 2017, she tripped and fell to a significant discontinuity defect between two adjoining slabs of the sidewalk in front of a residence, and that the fall resulted in Plaintiff sustaining significant injuries. She alleged the sidewalk defect “should have been detected by officials for the City…” at least 30 days prior to the incident, and that she believed the City had actual notice of the defect from area residents.

Plaintiff filed her Complaint on September 5, 2018 under the legal theory that the City breached its duty to maintain the sidewalk in reasonable repair as required under MCL 691.1402a. This statute provides that a municipal corporation is not liable for such a breach of duty unless a plaintiff proves that at least 30 days before the occurrence of the relevant injury, the municipal corporation knew or in the exercise of reasonable diligence should have known of the defect. Further, the municipal corporation is presumed to have maintained the sidewalk in reasonable repair. This presumption can only be rebutted by evidence showing the proximate injury was either a vertical discontinuity defect of 2 inches or more in the sidewalk or a dangerous condition in the sidewalk itself of a particular character other than solely a vertical discontinuity.

Plaintiff alleged that the City had actual notice of the alleged defect because surrounding neighbors had told her that they had been trying to get the sidewalk fixed. However, Plaintiff offered no proof of such notice either through affidavits, witness testimony, or other means. Plaintiff also failed to prove that, at the time of the incident, the vertical discontinuity between the sidewalk slabs was two inches (2”) or greater or that the sidewalk had other particular characteristics that would render it dangerous. The City took the depositions of all fact witnesses identified by Plaintiff to establish that their testimony could not overcome these weaknesses in Plaintiff’s case. Immediately upon the close of discovery, a Motion for Summary Disposition was filed and successfully argued before the Court, avoiding case evaluation and a potentially significant trial verdict given the venue and the fact that Plaintiff is an elderly woman who sustained injury from a fall that happened while she was engaged in door-to-door missionary work.

Defense SW attorney(s) Involved in Case:


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