Michigan Supreme Court Makes Ruling on Sidewalk Case - Call Lee Free

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Michigan Supreme Court Makes Ruling on Sidewalk Case

Last month, the Michigan Supreme Court issued its ruling on a long awaited case, Robinson v. City of Lansing.  The Court held that the 2 inch rule, which states that a discontinuity defect of less than two inches in a sidewalk creates a rebuttable inference the municipality (such as a city) maintained the sidewalk in reasonable repair, does not apply to city sidewalks.  Instead, the Court held that per Michigan statute, the 2 inch rule only applies to sidewalks along county highways, and because the sidewalk in Robinson involved a city sidewalk along a city street, the 2 inch rule could not be used by the defendant city to escape liability.

This decision is interesting on a number of levels.  First, it was a unanimous decision, and if anybody knows anything about the present makeup of Michigan’s Supreme Court, unanimous decisions in cases involving personal injury are few and far between.  Rarely do you see the arch conservative bloc of the Court (Young, Markman and Corrigan) siding with the more liberal bloc.

Second, this case may have far reaching implications for cities and townships.

Many city leaders will cry foul, arguing that cities cannot afford the onslaught of lawsuits that will follow this ruling.  However, this type of argument much be ignored.  Injuried parties will still have to prove the sidewalk was not in “reasonable repair” to win their case and that this condition caused the injury.  This is not easy to do.  It is important to remember that the 2 inch rule was just one of many hurdles injured persons had to get over when proving their case.

If anything, the Robinson decision gives injured people a fairer shake at obtaining justice.  Since the 2 inch rule was made into law 10 years ago, it became a virtual bar to almost all sidewalk claims.  For example, there were situtions where city employees at deposition stated under oath they don’t fix old and broken sidewalks because Michigan law (2 inch rule) protected them from civil lawsuits.  This is not the way to serve our state’s communies.

I consider the Robinson decision a victory for an average person like myself, who just wants our state’s cities and townships to be honest and to work to protect citizens.