This summary also appears under Litigation
Issues: Governmental immunity; The Government Tort Liability Act (MCL 691.1401 et seq.); Willett v. Charter Twp. of Waterford; Fane v. Detroit Library Comm'n; Ross v. Consumers Power Co. (On Rehearing); Peters v. Bay Fresh Start, Inc.; U.S. Fid. Ins. & Guar. Co. v. Michigan Catastrophic Claims Ass'n (On Rehearing); Linton v. Arenac Cnty. Road Comm'n; Maskery v. University of MI Bd. of Regents; Coleman v. Kootsillas; Gross negligence and causation; Xu v. Gay; Tarlea v. Crabtree; Robinson v. Detroit; Maiden v. Rozwood; "Sewage disposal event" defined; MCL 691.1416(k); "Defect" defined; MCL 691.1416(e); The Drain Code (MCL 280.1 et seq.); Toth v. Charter Twp. of Waterford; Payment of drain maintenance workers; MCL 280.33(2); Initiation of drain repairs; MCL 280.191; Bosanic v. Motz Dev., Inc.; Premises liability; Kubczak v. Chemical Bank & Trust Co.; Stitt v. Holland Abundant Life Fellowship; Lugo v. Ameritech Corp., Inc.; Clark v. Kmart Corp.; Hampton v. Waste Mgmt. of MI, Inc.; "Open and obvious" dangers; Ghaffari v. Turner Constr. Co.; Williams v. Cunningham Drug Stores, Inc.; Slaughter v. Blarney Castle Oil Co.; Hiner v. Mojica; Easements; Morrow v. Boldt; Leave to amend; Miller v. Chapman Contracting; Personal representative (PR)
Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (Unpublished)
Case Name: Estate of Dudley v. St. Clair Cnty. Office of Drain Comm'r
e-Journal Number: 59433
Judge(s): Per Curiam – Cavanagh and Meter; Concurring in part, Dissenting in part - Shapiro
The court held that the trial court properly granted summary disposition for the defendant-trustee in the plaintiff-PR's wrongful death action. It also held that the trial court properly granted summary disposition for the defendants-county, drain commissioner, and other county employees. The decedent, a jail inmate, was killed while working as a volunteer for defendants in the clearing of trees and other vegetation growing in a county storm water drain. On appeal, the court rejected plaintiff's argument that the trial court erred in prematurely scheduling and hearing the county defendants' motion for summary disposition before the completion of discovery and in disregard of its own scheduling order precluding the scheduling of dispositive motions before the close of discovery. It noted that "the trial court's ruling was premised on an issue of law, not an issue of fact, and was in conformance with the pretrial statement issued." Further, "any factual disputes did not rise to the level of precluding summary disposition because they did not establish the existence of an applicable exception" to governmental immunity, and "plaintiff's contention of the improper or untimely filing of the county defendants' motion for summary disposition is without merit." Finally, "plaintiff wrongfully assume[d] that the failure to cite each piece of evidence presented equates to a failure to consider the evidence." The court also rejected her argument that the sewage disposal event exception to governmental immunity was applicable and, thus, the county defendants were not entitled to summary disposition. It noted that she "failed to demonstrate the occurrence of a 'sewage disposal event' . . ." and, thus, "the sewage disposal event exception was not applicable under the circumstances of this case." Further, "[e]ven if the obstruction of the drain by the vegetation were to be construed as a 'defect' for purposes of the statute, plaintiff has failed to demonstrate that it led to a 'sewage disposal event' in this case, as that phrase is defined." The court next rejected her argument that the commissioner was not entitled to governmental immunity because he was engaged in an ultra vires activity at the time of the accident, noting that her "cited statutory provision does not mandate hiring by the commissioner of all laborers assigned to work on drains or suggest that the use of inmate labor was outside the discretion and authority afforded" to the commissioner, and that she "failed to demonstrate that the commissioner's initiation of maintenance on the drain was contrary to his statutory authority." Moreover, her contention that the commissioner, "either as an individual or as commissioner, can be held liable for the negligent performance of his duties is without merit and is specifically precluded by MCL 691.1407(2)." Affirmed.
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