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Case against MDOT dismissed because notice wasn't filed in Court of Claims

Hubert Kline suffered severe injuries when his car was struck by an MDOT vehicle on August 9, 2007.  Within two months, he sent a detailed  "statutory notice of claim" to MDOT by certified mail.   He didn't file the Notice in the Court of Claims, however, until April of 2008, and didn't file a notarized copy with the Court of Claims until June.  In 2009, MDOT moved to dismiss Kline's lawsuit because he didn't comply with the strict terms of the governmental immunity statute, which required that the Notice be filed with the Clerk of the Court of Claims within six months of the injury.  The trial judge refused to dismiss the claim and MDOT appealed.

Everyone agrees that MDOT suffered no prejudice by reason of Kline's failure to send a notarized copy of his notice to the Court of Claims.  Nevertheless, the Court of Appeals dismissed his claim.  Several years ago, the so-called Engler Majority on the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that injury claimants must strictly comply with governmental immunity/notice requirements under another statute. They overturned a decision from several decades ago, where the Supreme Court had ruled that  this kind of procedural error would result in dismissal only if the governmental agency suffered prejudice by reason of the mistake. 

A previous panel of the Court of Appeals has decided that the new Supreme Court decision should apply in interpreting the current statute, also, and under procedural rules of the Court of Appeals, that initial decision by Court of Appeals judges required the current panel to uphold the dismissal of Klein's case.  The judges wrote that they believe that the prior decision was "wrongly decided" and would have affirmed the trial court's decison if they  had the power to do so.

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
309 East Front Street
Traverse City, Michigan 49684
Toll Free: 1-800-678-1307
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