Court holds woman injured by undetected gas leak did not sue early enough
Beginning in 2003, Geraldine Seger began asking CMS Corporation/Consumers Energy to inspect her home for a gas leak. Employees made several inspections without locating a leak until a 2009 visit uncovered a leak in the basement. Seger filed suit, arguing that she had suffered injury from chronic natural gas toxicity. Consumers argued that her three-year statute of limitations began to run by 2004, the date of the earliest alleged negligent inspection and symptoms, and thus Seger's suit was not timely, even though she had no foundation for suing prior to that time.
The trial court agreed with Consumers. On appeal, shockingly, the Court of Appeals upheld this decision, citing the Republican Supreme Court majority's decision that the statute of limitations should not be "tolled" [extended] until a victim discovers the cause of action. The Court held that Seger should have acted more vigorously to discover the leak which the Defendant's engineers and specialists could not find.After we published a summary of the Court's holding, we heard from Ms. Seger, describing her situation and expressing anguish over the fact that the current Court's new, activist revision of the statute of limitations required her to file suit against a negligent party before she even knew what happened or who was at fault. Needless to say, if our post suggested to anyone that we agreed with the Republican, insurance-friendly majority opinion, that suggestion is completely inaccurate. We think this decision, and the many decisions resulting from the Supreme Court's revision of the "discovery" extension of the statute of limitations, are completely wrong and unjust.
The same people who complain about "our litigious society" continue to promote rules that punish innocent victims for not filing lawsuits before the victims even understand the pertinent facts. In fact, lawsuits for injury were substantially reduced nearly 30 years ago by "tort reform" efforts of the insurance industry and other special interest groups. Despite that fact, the current Court majority has continued to grant favors to corporate interests by changing the longstanding law. This is only one example of many decisions that use time as a bar to cases against no fault PIP insurers, government entities obligated to maintain roads and buildings, and trespassers and perpetrators who committed serial errors or managed to avoid detection for the statutory time limit.