Michigan Supreme Court overturns Court of Appeals; dismisses motorcyclist's claim against Road Commission
Joseph Paletta sued the Oakland County Road Commission. He lost control of his bike on loose gravel and suffered serious injuries. He presented testimony from a man living near the area where he was injured, attesting to the fact that the witness had complained on a number of occasions that the Road Commission scattered loose gravel in the road when it turned in and out of a gravel storage area. The witness claimed that the Road Commission failed to take any action in response to his complaints and continued to create a nuisance on the asphalt roadway.Paletta claimed that this nuisance condition caused him to lose control of his motorcycle. The Court of Appeals ruled, after the Road Commission appealed, that Paletta's claims were properly a question of fact for the jury. This week the Supreme Court's conservative majority ruled 4-3 that Paletta's claim should be summarily dismissed. In a one paragraph holding the Court held that "an accumulation of gravel," even if negligently created by the Commission, "does not implicate the defendant's duty to maintain the highway in 'reasonable repair'."
The Republican-nominated Supreme Court majority has used its myopic interpretation of the statute on road maintenance to hold that road authorities owe no duty to maintain signs or signal devices, bridges, structures or sick trees in the right-of-way, or any other structure outside the road-bed. It has also held that road authorities are immune from negligent road design--and now it has granted road authorities immunity from negligent road maintenance.