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COA "Curbs" Governmental Immunity Claim

Posted on Monday, May 14, 2018

In Sharp v City of Benton Harbor, the COA held that a curb comes withing the definition of "a public highway, road, or street," for purposes of applying the highway exception to governmental immunity to municipalities. In Sharp, the plaintiff sustained injuries when she stepped onto a crumbling curb. The defendant city acknowledged jurisdiction over the curb where plaintiff fell. Plaintiff sued the city for failure to maintain the curb. The city moved for summary disposition on the basis of governmental immunity. The trial court denied the city's motion and the COA affirmed.

 

 

The COA reasoned that the city was not entitled to governmental immunity where the statutory purpose of making highways "reasonably safe and fit for travel" is best served by abrogating immunity for governmental agencies with jurisdiction over structures such as curbs. The Court noted that the Legislature's decision to list structures both included within and excluded from the definition of "highway" illustrated that the lists of inclusion and exclusion were not exhaustive. Consequently, unidentified structures, such as curbs, could fall within the definition of highway.

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