Newly-minted Republican majority holds State immune from injuries on trail
Beverly Duffy suffered injuries rendering her a paraplegiac when her off-road vehicle rolled over after striking a partially-buried board on the Little Manistee Trail. The Trail is a series of off-road dirt trails through the Little Manistee State Forest. They are designed for recreational use and are maintained and signed by the State DNR. By appearance, they are indistinguishable from the other dirt roads through state land that are open for public use. Ms. Duffy sued the DNR, arguing that it failed to maintain the road in "reasonably safe condition" as required by statute.
The Court divided 4-3 and the majority dismissed Duffy's claim. The [losing] Democratically-nominated Justices argued that under the plain terms of the governmental immunity statute, the Little Manistee Trail is a "public highway" which the State owes a duty to maintain. The prevailing [Republican nominees to the Court] Justices held that regardless of the statutory language, the Trail should not be considered a public road and the state should owe no duty to maintain it. The pictures of the road attached to the Court's opinion certainly offer a dramatic suggestion that the Trail is a public road.