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Drain and Road authorities not responsible for injuries suffered by worker injured at drain defect

Terry Ficke was "seriously injured" when he fell off a spraying platform attached to a tractor being driven by a co-worker.  Ficke fell when the tractor struck a depression in the road bed at the Goll Drain.  He did not send pre-suit notice to either the Road Commission or the Drain Commission within 120 days as required under Michigan's governmental immunity statute, so his claims against those entities were dismissed.

The lower court had also ruled that the injured man could not sue the Drain Commissioner under the statutory exception to immunity that allows suit for a "sewage disposal system event."  The trial judge had held that this exception to immunity applies only to disposal systems carrying human waste effluent.  In fact, the Court of Appeals has previously held that the statute applies to all drainage systems, including the instant "storm water drain system" under the Commissioner's jurisdiction.

Nevertheless, the Court upheld the dismissal of Ficke's claim because while the evidence at this location showed that the culvert wasn't operating correctly, Ficke had not proved that an overflow or back-up had actually occurred.  The Court held that even mention of "drainage problems" at the location in Township meetings was not adequate to create a question of fact with regard to the road hazard having been created by overflow or backup.

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