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Kids get extra time (to adulthood) to sue government, but must serve formal notice of claim within 6 months

Katerina Super suffered very severe injuries at age 3 when her car was struck by a MDOT vehicle driven on the freeway by an MDOT employee at 90+ miles per hour.  The employee, one Melissa Kane, was late for a meeting, driving like an idiot, and lost control of her car.  MDOT investigated the incident and disciplined her.  Katerina's family did not immediately take any legal action, however.  When it did file a lawsuit to compensate Katerina a year later, MDOT argued that the case must be dismissed because the three-year old did not serve MDOT with a written notice of her injury.  The family argued that the tolling provision giving minors (and other incompetent persons) the right to sue until a year after they reach the age of majority (or their disability is removed) applied to allow Katerina's suit to go forward.  Incredibly, the Court of Appeals majority reversed the trial court and held that Katerina's case must be dismissed because she didn't serve a written notice.

The dissenting judge noted that the provision waiving Katerina's statute of limitations until she reached age 19 was meaningless if the court applied the notice provision requiring a formal notice within six months.  The dissenter also noted that MDOT suffered no prejudice as a result of the lack of notice, since it had people on the scene and investigated the incident fully before disciplining its driver.

Sadly, in the Engler era, this is what passes for justice in Michigan:  a judge or two make a technical distinction between "statutes of limitation" and "notice periods" and on the basis of that semantic distinction, enforce legislation that nullifies not only the legislature's intent, but also common sense and sound public policy.  A 3-year old who has suffered terrible injuries is denied legal compensation because her family didn't serve a redundant piece of paper on the government while its child was still recuperating from her injuries.  As Judge Alton Davis noted, the majority's errant decision denies this child "a reasonable chance to protect [her] rights," violating an "important and longstanding public policy that is clearly rooted in the law."

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