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City's negligence claim against engineers is dismissed

The City of Huntington Woods sued Orchard, Hiltz & McCliment, an engineering firm, after it alleged the engineers had performed poorly in the reconstruction of Coolidge Highway between 10 and 11 Mile Roads.  A jury agreed with the City and the Trial Judge refused to reduce or set aside the verdict.  On appeal, however, the Court of Appeals overturned the verdict and sent the case back for entry of judgment in the engineers' favor.  The Court held that the testimony was not particularized sufficiently to support the jury's verdict.

Specifically, the City presented testimony from other engineers who claimed that "the firm or individual responsible for the construction engineering must follow the plans and specifications as the design was prepared.  It's critical."  While the highway was not built as designed, the Court based its decision on the absence of testimony that the as-built highway constituted a "breach of the standard of care."  The higher court specifically suggested that the City's engineering testimony needed to explicitly state that use of an asphalt additive and construction on a particular date were decisions that an engineer of ordinary learning, skill and intelligence would not have made.  On this basis, the jury's decision was overturned, even though the City's engineers explicitly claimed that "late paving" and inappropriate asphalt formula resulted in "durability issues."

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
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Traverse City, Michigan 49684
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