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Court rejects claim based on construction activities that interfere with driveway

The Court of Appeals recently rejected Rudy Denha's injury claim against Dart Properties.  Dart owns an apartment complex and had torn up the asphalt just inside its driveway.  Denha claimed that a tenant made a left turn in front of him and then stopped abruptly, when she encountered the construction activities, blocking his lane of travel.  The tenant at-fault driver testified she didn't recall hesitating after attempting to enter the driveway, but Denha presented other testimony tending to corroborate his claim. 

The lower court dismissed Denha's injury claim, holding that the sole cause of the accident was the at-fault driver, and thus the activities on the apartment complex property did not "cause" his injuries.  The Macomb County Circuit Court judge also held that the construction activities were an "open and obvious" danger, and therefore the creator of that danger owed no duty to Denha or any other person.

The appellate court held that the lower court "did not err in interpreting the evidence as failing to support the assertion that the construction in fact caused the turning driver reasonably to slow or stop abruptly while blocking...traffic".  Normally, courts do not decide (or "interpret") the facts in addressing a motion for summary disposition, and in fact the court rules require the court to assume for the basis of the motion that a factual conflict will be resolved in favor of the "non-moving party".  For whatever reason, the courts in Mr. Denha's case chose to disregard normal procedure and to summarily dismiss his claim:  apparently these particular judges simply didn't think that tearing up a driveway could ever create a hazard for traffic near the entryway.  Several years ago, we achieved an excellent recovery that arose out of the poor design of a commercial driveway; that result was before "tort reform" had gained headway, though.

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
309 East Front Street
Traverse City, Michigan 49684
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