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Court's ruling leads to absurd result

The activist Republicans elected to Michigan's Supreme Court considered eliminating personal injury lawsuits a cardinal goal and received heavy financial election support from insurers and the Chamber of Commerce as a result.  One of the many "reforms" that the Republicans instituted when they achieved a majority was a reinterpretation of notice requirements.  For example, when a person is injured as a result of a defect in a public road, the victim is required to serve a notice upon the entity who maintained the roadway within 120 days of the injury.  The theory was that road authorities should have a chance to evaluate the claimed "defect" while it was still reasonably fresh.

Historically (for decades) Michigan judges had interpreted this statute to require "substantial compliance."  If there was a technical defect in the notice that resulted in any prejudice to the highway authority, the victim's case would be dismissed for non-compliance.  The Republican majority overturned that long-standing precedent and ruled that any technical defect in the notice would be cause for dismissal (and denial of a trial on the merits). It was deemed irrelevant whether the road authority was prejudiced by the error, no matter how insignificant the error was.

This week, yet another example of the absurdity of this approach was published.  In Alqausu v. City of Dearborn, the injured plaintiff's claim was permanently dismissed because his notice stated that the "incident occurred behind the Al Saad whose address is 10047 Dix Ave., Dearborn, MI, 48120 at the back alley way entrance. The depression is located on the south side of the driveway of Canterbury street."  The notice went on to describe the "depression" with specific dimensions, "next to the curb."  All of this was accurate, except the address for the "well known" Al Saad Meat Market is 10047 Vernor Highway, not Dix.

Even though the City did not claim to have been prejudiced or deceived by the error in identifying the street address of the "well-known Al Saad Meat Market" the Court of Appeals majority dismissed the plaintiff's case for failing to properly identify the "exact location" of the road defect.  It is one thing to be "conservative."  It is an entirely different matter to discard common sense in the process--if the ultimate goal is justice.  Judge Fort Hood wrote a dissent, noting that the victim in this case "sufficiently specified the 'exact location' of the injury."

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