In Estate of Truett v. Wayne County.opn, the Court of Appeals (Judges Servitto (presiding), Beckering, and Fort Hood) unanimously held that a tree lying in the roadbed is not a “defect” within the meaning of the “highway exception” to governmental immunity under the Governmental Tort Liability Act (GTLA), MCL 691.1401, et seq.
I briefed and argued this case for Wayne County.
The COA affirms the trial court’s decision, holding: an obstruction lying in the roadbed is not a defect in the physical structure of the roadbed itself. Relying heavily on the Supreme Court’s order in Hagerty v. Manistee County Road Commission, 493 Mich. 933 (2013) (in which I submitted an amicus curiae brief for MML, et al.), the Court states:
“Application to the case at hand is straightforward. The defective condition that plaintiff alleges caused Truett’s injury was a tree, a portion of which was lying across the highway. Plaintiff has not alleged any ‘defect in the physical structure of the roadbed, as required for liability to arise under the [GTLA] highway exception, MCL 691.1402(1).’ Hagerty, 493 Mich. at 934.” Slip Opinion at p. 4 (emphasis in original).
Albeit unpublished, this is a significant case that involved a severe accidental death and which could have resulted in substantial liability on the County. The case is also significant because it anchors the rule that to bring a claim within the highway defect exception, the plaintiff must allege facts that there was an inherent, physical defect in the roadbed structure itself. Obstructions and debris (whether natural or otherwise) do not fall within the exception.
This signifies acceptance of the rule of law stated by the Supreme Court in its peremptory reversal order in Hagerty, supra, which results in a notable clarification of the jurisprudence relating to the “highway defect” exception to the government’s otherwise broadly conferred immunity.
For more than a century, Lacey & Jones has distinguished itself from other law firms by maintaining a robust Appeals and Legal Research Group. Effective appellate representation demands different skills than those required by litigation attorneys. Our appellate attorneys are adept at analyzing the intricacies of each case from an objective and critical perspective. From reviewing and preparing the lower court record, identifying appealable errors, and developing a strategy to raise issues that will be addressed by appellate courts, our seasoned appellate team is capable of handling the most complex appeals from the application stage to oral advocacy before the highest courts. Our research abilities and knowledge of current issues in nearly all major subject-matter areas of the law provide our clients with efficient and immediate assistance with complex and high-exposure cases.
We are experienced at navigating through all appellate courts to shepherd the appeal in the most expeditious fashion possible so that it can be reviewed and quickly ruled upon.
During the last three decades alone, the Appeals and Legal Research Group at Lacey & Jones has been responsible for over 150 published decisions, including seminal decisions in workers’ compensation, governmental immunity, employment and labor law, civil rights law and insurance coverage. Because of its specialized knowledge and focus on appellate law and its recognized expertise, the Appeals and Legal Research Group at Lacey & Jones has been asked to participate as amicus curiae writing briefs for the Supreme Court or as special counsel to the Michigan Attorney General and other governmental entities in some of the most significant cases in the Court of Appeals and Supreme Court. Below are some of the recent significant cases in which Lacey & Jones, LLP’s Appeals and Legal Research Group has participated.
- Estate of Truett v. Wayne County (Court of Appeals Docket No. 313638 (May 6, 2014)
- Yono v. MDOT, ___ Mich. App. ___ (201_), amicus curiae brief to be filed after remand for Michigan Municipal League, et al., by Carson J. Tucker
- Omian v. Chrysler Group, LLC, 495 Mich. 859 (2013), application filed by Carson J. Tucker, Supreme Court remand to Court of Appeals on leave granted
- Ghanam v. John Does, 303 Mich. App. 522 (2013), application to appeal filed in Supreme Court by Carson J. Tucker
- State Farm v. MMRMA, ___ Mich App ___ (2013), amicus curiae for Oakland County in support of MMRMA application, by Carson J. Tucker
- Hannay v MDOT, ___ Mich ___ 201_), application granted, amicus curiae filed for Michigan Townships Association, Macomb County, Oakland County and Wayne County, et al., by Carson J. Tucker
- Yono v. MDOT, ___ Mich ___ (201_), oral argument on application granted, amicus curiae for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne County filed by Carson J. Tucker in support of the state’s application
- Huddleston v. Trinity Health, et al., 495 Mich. 976 (2014), oral argument on application granted, amicus curiae with Lawrence Garcia, Esq., for MDTC
- Ashley, LLC v Pittsfield Twp., 494 Mich 875 (2013), application granted, for Pittsfield Township by Carson J. Tucker (resolved by settlement)
- Bailey v. Schaaf, ___ Mich ___ (2013), amicus curiae for MDTC by Carson J. Tucker
- Atkins v. SMART, 492 Mich 707 (2012), oral argument on application, Court of Appeals case reversed by opinion, Carson J. Tucker
- Hagerty v Manistee, 493 Mich 933 (2013), amicus curiae for Michigan Municipal League, et al., by Carson J. Tucker
- McMurtrie v Eaton Corp, 490 Mich 976 (2011)
- Findley v DaimlerChrysler Corp., 490 Mich 928 (2011)
- Brewer v. AD.Transport Express, Inc, 486 Mich 50 (2010)
- Stokes v Chrysler, 481 Mich 266 (2008)
- Brackett v Focus Hope, Inc, 482 Mich 269 (2008)
- Rakestraw v Gen Dynamics, 469 Mich 220 (2003)