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Department of Transportation loses argument that parallel parking areas adjacent to M-22 are not part of road it must maintain

By statute, MDOT owes a duty to "reasonably maintain" the traveled portions of every highway.  Helen Yono was injured in Suttons Bay when she stepped into a deep pot-hole in an extended and unmarked area of M-22 used for parallel parking.  She argued that MDOT did not reasonably maintain that section of highway, but MDOT argued it owed a duty to maintain only 11 feet on either side of the center line, as this 22 feet of road width constituted the "lanes" set aside for public travel.

The trial court rejected MDOT's argument, noting that vehicles travel in and out of parallel parking segments of roadway on a consistent basis, either to enter or leaving parking spaces, to make right turns and to pass left turning vehicles.  MDOT appealed and the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial judge, although Judge Michael Talbot, a Republican Court of Appeals judge, dissented and would hold that the Department owes a duty to maintain only the designated travel lanes of highways.

In the last decade, Republican Justices have overturned previously-existing law to eliminate the road authority's duty to maintain signs, traffic control lights or devices, encroaching vegetation, street lighting, and even bridges and shoulders.  Judge Talbot obviously thinks that the Supreme Court's Republican majority will extend these rulings to eliminate the Department's duty to "reasonably maintain" pavement that is wider than a standard travel lane--even in cases like the instant case where there are no lane makrings to denote the "traveled" surface.

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