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Claim against building inspector is dismissed

Ira and Yolanda Gordon sued their builder and the Chikaming Township Building Inspector, Howard Gaul, after the roof of their new home collapsed.  According to the appellate judicial opinions, the builder, Jim Lippens Construction, Inc., had literally designed and built the roof to fail, by failing to comply with standard buiding codes and specifications.  According to the family, the building inspector was grossly negligent in failing to recognize significant deviations that resulted in an unstable structure, and in allowing construction to continue without  interruption or repair.

The trial court refused to dismiss the claim against the building inspector but on appeal two of the three appellate judges overruled the lower court.  They held that the family could not prove that the inspector was "the" cause of the  defective roof, since the builder's fault was of necessity greater.  The third judge dissented, noting that a reasonable juror might place greater fault on the part of the inspector, if the family's allegations were believed, creating a question of fact for the jury. 

Prior to the Engler Majority era, a jury would have been told to assign fault to all of the culpable parties, with each defendant bearing his share of damages:  the insurance-friendly Engler-era Justices of Michigan's Supreme Court held that  a government actor is not  responsible for any part of an injury he causes unless he or she is the "primary" cause.

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
309 East Front Street
Traverse City, Michigan 49684
Toll Free: 1-800-678-1307
Fax: 231-929-7262