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When the drinking fountain almost severs a kid's finger, it IS a building defect

     Brandon Joseph's mom sued the Southfield Public Schools after the first-grader almost severed a finger while running past the drinking fountain with his arm out.  The school argued that the exposed and unfinished metal edge of the fountain would not have injured someone drinking at the fountain, and therefore it wasn't dangerous or a "defect".

Thankfully, some adults have a realistic appreciation of what is "reasonably safe" and foreseeable for the behavior of six-year olds and the Court of Appeals' Judges ruled that a fountain capable of causing this injury may, in fact, constitute a building defect:  they returned the case for decision by a jury.  The defendants had relied on the reasoning of a 1992 decision which held that the family of a suicidal inmate could not make a defective building claim after their child hung himself in his cell.  The Court of Appeals focused on the height and purpose of the building, and also distinguished this case from the 2007 Renny decision where the  activist Republican majority held that governments could not be sued for defective building design--only maintenance. 

The Court in Brandon's case held that this drinking fountain flaw appeared to be  a result of faulty construction and installation, and the record needed to be developed with regard to the school system's maintenance activities.  Judge Hoekstra objected to this ruling and would have granted summary disposition to the School.

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
309 East Front Street
Traverse City, Michigan 49684
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