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High court upholds summary disposition of drowning case against City of Traverse City; also dismisses claim against City officers

A young man drowned when he encountered electrically charged water in the city-owned Clinch Park Marina in Traverse City.  Despite the fact that the electrical wiring of the City docks did not meet marine codes and that City workers had actual notice of the presence of stray voltage in the water, the Court concluded that the young man's family had no valid claim of negligence against the City.  The Court reversed the trial judge, who had ruled that the family had raised a question of fact with regard to City employee gross negligence.

Because of "governmental immunity," a concept we adopted from English Common Law where the King could not be sued in his own court, Michigan residents cannot sue a City for negligence unless it is engaged in a purely-for-profit enterprise.  Residents cannot sue a government employee unless he or she exhibits complete disregard for a likely injury.  Republican Justices in the majority on Michigan's Supreme Court have interpreted this doctrine extremely strictly, in a manner that grants almost complete immunity to governments and their agents and employees.

Thus, despite the fact that the Marina employees did not require contractors to comply with marine electrical codes, and in fact learned of the actual presence of voltage in the water well before the young man's drowning, the City will have no obligation to compensate the family for government stupidity and failure to act.

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