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The Supreme Court adds insult to injury in a tragic case involving two young girls.

  In Estate of Buckner v. City of Lansing the "gang of four" on the Supreme Court recently reversed a decision allowing the family of two young girls to sue the City for plowing snow over the sidewalk and forcing the girls out into the road on their walk home.  One girl was killed and the other suffered a catastrophic head injury when they were struck by a motorist.  The majority--composed of four activist Republicans-- held that the City's duty to maintain sidewalks and reasonably safe roads does not include a duty to avoid blocking the sidewalk with snow.

  The majority conceded that a municipality has a duty to "maintain [a] highway in reasonable repair and in a condition reasonably safe and fit for travel" but claimed that this duty does not include a "duty to keep the highway 'reasonably safe'.  The girls, aged 7 and 14, were walking home from the neighborhood McDonald's when they encountered an area of sidewalk where the City had piled snow from Saginaw Street.  The large snow pile obstructed the sidewalk and forced the girls into the adjacent street.  They were struck by a car and suffered massive injuries.  Buckner died soon after.

It turned out that the City piled snow in this area because the sidewalk in this location had never been finished after a 1998 road project.  It was a convenient location to stockpile snow, if not a matter of convenience for neighborhood residents.   The majority paid lip-service to the tragic nature of this event, but was hard-hearted and callous enough to maintain its absurd interpretation of the "reasonably safe road" statute.  If the logic of the majority's explanation of duty escapes you, perhaps you haven't been given enough money by the Chamber of Commerce or the insurance industry.

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
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Traverse City, Michigan 49684
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