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The Engler majority hands another gift to insurers

When an Initial Transport tanker truck lost control and overturned on a Michigan highway, it exploded and burned, causing more than 3 million dollars worth of damage to the highway and an overpass.  The State sued the Company to cover the clean up and repair.  The Company had been required, under Michigan's Common Carrier Act, to carry several million dollars of insurance in return for its license to transport goods for hire on the highways of the state .  It defended the State's claim, however, by alleging that it did not have to pay any more damages than the no fault one million dollar property loss limit. 

The lower courts held, using common sense and straight statutory interpretation, that the Common Carrier limits were an exception to the no fault 1 million dollar property loss limit.  Michigan's Supreme Court overturned that decision, however, essentially reading the higher motor carrier property damage protection requirement out of the Act.  This was a welcome favor for the well-tended insurance industry, and one more burden on the backs of taxpayers--while the same politicians attempt to "starve the government beast" by depriving it of tax income. 

We can keep taxes down if we make people and corporations cover the expenses of their activities:  that was precisely the logic of the higher coverage limit in the Motor Carrier Act.  Decisions such as this one heap additional burdens on the taxpayers, rather than on those entities which profit from the public infrastructure and put it at risk.  On the same day that this decision was handed down, Minnesota authorities released a report detailing how the  upkeep of the I-35 bridge, which  was found to be in "poor condition" for 17 consecutive years prior to its collapse, had been delayed several times for lack of taxpayer funding.  Ultimately, the collapse killed 13 people, injured 145 more, and caused hundreds of millions in property losses and damage.

Public services and infrastructure are not "free" and politicians who encourage people to assume that they can be provided without identifying a payment source should be excoriated.  When these politicians--at the same time--also rip the guts out of public funding schemes for the benefit of their cronies, they should be tied to the piers of some decaying structure and not released until a method of funding maintenance is identified.

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