Saad strikes again: changes to roof to eliminate leak are not "maintenance or repair"
Henry Saad is perhaps the insurance industry's most reliable Michigan judge. He can be counted on to vote in favor of insurers and their interests in virtually every case. That propensity was on display again this week, when he voted to deny a claim filed by Karen Renny against the Michigan Department of Transportation.
Renny was "seriously injured" when she fell on ice while entering a rest area building in Roscommon County. She claimed the building was defectively designed and maintained in a manner that caused an ice build-up at the entrance. The building had originally incorporated a gutter-like roof design intended to channel water away from the entryway. Eventually the roof developed a leak and MDOT repaired it by means of a new approach that involved use of a "4 or 5 inch diverter" intended to channel water away from the entrance. The new approach didn't work and caused a build-up of ice at the entrance where Renny fell.
Her case was initially appealed by MDOT to the Supreme Court, where the Engler majority held that she would not have a viable claim for negligent design of the roof. This interpretation of the State's duty to maintain public buildings in a safe manner is prone to reversal, given that Justice Weaver and other Justices who disagreed with the decision now appear to represent a majority of the Supreme Court. In any event, Renny's case was sent back to the lower court to assess whether she had documented a "design" case or a "maintenance" case. The Saad panel of the Court of Appeals interpreted this mix of facts to be a "design" claim and therefore held that Renny could not sue MDOT for failing to maintain the building in reasonable repair.
Just one more in a trend of decisions that have interpreted Michigan law in a restrictive, activist manner to deny the common sense obligations of reasonable public policy. "The duty to maintain safe buildings doesn't require the State to maintain safe buildings if we can torture the English language enough to achieve a different outcome."