Cement falls from overpass injuring doctor--he MIGHT have valid claim against road authority
Dr. Anthony Adeleye was hurt when a chunk of concrete fell from the M-39 overpass and struck his windshield, as he was driving south on the Lodge. He sued the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) for failing to properly maintain the overpass bridge. Luckily, his attorneys alleged that one cause of the deterioration of the bridge was the failure to maintain the roadway surface that rested on the bridge. MDOT argued that it should have no responsibility for failing to properly inspect and maintain the bridge because its statutory duty to "maintain a reasonably safe roadway" applies only to the traveled surface and not to the structure supporting it.
This precise argument was rejected by a panel of the Court of Appeals in Moser v. Detroit, a 2009 case where a similar bridge failure caused injuries to a motorist, however, the panel in Adeleye refused to follow Moser. Instead, the judges in this case argued that the Engler Majority decision in Grimes v. Department of Transportation justified immunizing the Department for its negligent failure to maintain the highway bridges.
The Adeleye opinion suggested that under the Grimes interpretation of the statute, the bridge/roadway need not be analyzed as a structural entity and that the Department's responsibility to maintain a "safe roadway" should run no deeper than the surface that cars operate upon. Grimes has previously been used by "reformers" to justify immunizing road authorities for negligence in failing to maintain traffic control devices and signals (as if they weren't essential to the maintenance of a reasonably safe road). Fortunately for the innocently-injured doctor, however, his attorneys formulated their claim to allege that the structural damage to the bridge was caused by the Department's failure to maintain the road surface properly. The judges in Adeleye said that he can recover for the structural failure if his attoneys can prove that claim.