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Legal Defense FundBlue Arrows

Governmental immunity/liability
Henkey v City of Grand Rapids

440 Mich 867 (1992)

Issue: Governmental immunity - public building exception

Background:
Robert Henkey slipped on some snow and ice and fell on the sidewalk immediately adjacent to the entryway of a Grand Rapids’ public building. Henkey sued the city; the city claimed immunity under the Michigan Governmental Tort Liability Act (GTLA). Henkey claimed that the city was liable under the public building exception of the GTLA. The circuit court held that the public building exception did not apply to injuries suffered by Henkey when he slipped on snow and ice and that the natural accumulation of ice and snow did not constitute a dangerous condition of the building.

The circuit court also held that a sidewalk adjacent to a public building does not fall within the public building exception. The Court of Appeals reversed, finding that the public building exception applies to areas immediately adjacent to the building and that the exception also applies to dangerous conditions arising from the accumulation of foreign substances on the floors of public buildings.

Why did the LDF get involved?
At risk was the principle that the natural accumulation of ice and snow does not constitute a defective condition of a public building for purposes of the public building exception to governmental immunity. In addition, at risk was the principle that areas immediately adjacent to a building are not part of a building for purposes of the exception.

What action did the LDF take?
Filed an amicus brief with the Michigan Supreme Court

What was the outcome?
The Michigan Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals and reinstated the circuit court decision, finding that Henkey had not stated an actionable claim in avoidance of governmental immunity. The Court upheld the principles that snow and ice on a sidewalk are not a defect of a building and that location immediately adjacent to a building are not part “of” a building for purposes of the exception.

Who prepared the amicus brief?
James S. Brady
(Miller, Johnson, Snell & Cummiskey)

 

 

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