Jogger who tripped over heaved sidewalk cannot sue Township
Ronald Williams sued Van Buren Township in Wayne County, arguing that the Township was responsible for the injuries he suffered when he tripped over a heaved section of sidewalk. Williams argued that the adjoining landowner had removed a section of new sidewalk to run pipe beneath it, and that the replaced section had heaved, leaving a 3/4 inch vertical surface that consittute an unacceptable trip hazard.
The Court held that Williams' claim must be dismissed because Williams could not support his claim with adequate proofs. In particular, the Court held that his proofs did not sufficiently document a hazard to overcome the statutory presumption that unequal surfaces become unreasonably hazardous when they are two inches tall. The Court also pointed out that even when the evidence was viewed in a light most favorable to Williams, his proofs did not establish either actual or constructive notice of the defect on the part of the Township.
If a defect can be proven to have existed for more than 30 days, a municipality is deemed to have constructive notice of the hazard. In this case, there was no proof that the problem had existed for 30 days.