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Fall victims lose about fifty in a row: City of Port Huron owes no duty to maintain walkway

Anthony Edwards brought an action against the City of Port Huron and its Housing Commission after he fell on a walkway within the Defendant's Huron Village Townshouses [sic?].  When the City built the townhouses, it included a series of cement "walkways" running around and through the development.  Some were adjacent to the road and some cut through between buildings.  Edwards fell in an area that was not contiguous with the road, and he argued that he fell because the walkway had not been propertly maintained.  The City asked that the case be dismissed summarily (without a trial) based on governmental immunity.

Governments in Michigan are immune from negligence unless there is an applicable exception adopted by the Legislature.  In fact, the Legislature, back in the 1960s, held governments responsible for defectively maintained "highways" and included "sidewalks" within the definition of "highway."  This interpretation of law was consistent for several decades.

When activist Republicans assumed control of the Michigan Supreme Court, however, they construed this "highway" statute as narrowly as they could:  they reversed prior decisions and said it applied only to the traveled road bed and not to traffic control signals, signs or devices, highway design, rights of way, bridges, shoulders or sidewalks not immediately adjacent to the road.

Citing these decisions, the Court of Appeals upheld the summary dismissal of Edwards' claim because the sidewalk where he fell intersected a roadway but was not contiguous with a road.  Therefore the City owed no duty to maintain it in a reasonably safe condition.

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