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Dybata v. County of Wayne

March 25, 2010

TINA DYBATA, RYAN DYBATA, DANIEL BROWNING, THERESA BROWNING, JULIE OLIVER, BRIAN OLIVER, DIANE MCBRIDE, JEREMY HARLETON, AND CARRIE HARLETON, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLEES,
v.
COUNTY OF WAYNE, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT, AND CITY OF DEARBORN HEIGHTS, DEFENDANT.
TINA DYBATA AND RYAN DYBATA, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLEES,
v.
COUNTY OF WAYNE, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT, AND CITY OF DEARBORN HEIGHTS, DEFENDANT.



Wayne Circuit Court, LC Nos. 07-722486-AV & 07-722259-AV.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Jansen, J.

FOR PUBLICATION

Before: K. F. Kelly, P.J., and Jansen and Fitzgerald, JJ.

In these consolidated cases, defendant Wayne County (the county) appeals by leave granted the circuit court's order affirming the district court's denial of its motion for summary disposition brought pursuant to MCR 2.116(C)(7) (governmental immunity). We affirm for the reasons set forth in this opinion.

Plaintiffs are residents of the city of Dearborn Heights (the city). Plaintiffs sued the city and the county to recover damages that resulted when sewage backed up into their homes following a significant rainfall. The issue presented in this appeal is whether the county was entitled to summary disposition on the ground that plaintiffs had failed to comply with certain statutory notice requirements contained in the governmental tort liability act (GTLA), MCL 691.1401 et seq. Both the district and circuit court concluded that plaintiffs had provided the required statutory notice of their claims to the city, which in turn was required to notify the county of those claims pursuant to MCL 691.1419(4). Both courts concluded that plaintiffs' notice to the city was sufficient to allow their claims to proceed against the county, and that the county was therefore not entitled to summary disposition on the issue of notice. Although we disagree with the exact reasoning of the district and circuit courts, we conclude that the correct result was reached in denying the county's motion for summary disposition.

Summary disposition may be granted when, among other things, a claim is barred by governmental immunity. MCR 2.116(C)(7). When considering a motion brought under subrule C(7), the trial court must consider any affidavits, depositions, admissions, or other documentary evidence submitted by the parties to determine whether there is a genuine issue of material fact precluding summary disposition. MCR 2.116(G)(5); Guerra v Garratt, 222 Mich App 285, 289; 564 NW2d 121 (1997). If no facts are in dispute, or if reasonable minds could not differ regarding the legal effect of those facts, then the question whether the claim is barred by governmental immunity is an issue of law. See id. However, if a question of fact exists such that factual development could provide a basis for recovery, dismissal is inappropriate. Id.

A trial court's decision on a motion for summary disposition is reviewed de novo. Maiden v Rozwood, 461 Mich 109, 118; 597 NW2d 817 (1999). "We review the record in the same manner as the trial court to determine whether the movant was entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Herman v Detroit, 261 Mich App 141, 143; 680 NW2d 71 (2004). We review de novo questions of statutory interpretation, as well as the application of governmental immunity. Id.; Heinz v Chicago Rd Investment Co, 216 Mich App 289, 295; 549 NW2d 47 (1996).

The GTLA provides various exceptions to the doctrine of governmental immunity. One of those exceptions, contained in § 17 of the GTLA, MCL 691.1417, allows individuals to sue for damages resulting from a "sewage disposal system event."*fn1 MCL 691.1417provides:

(1) To afford property owners, individuals, and governmental agencies greater efficiency, certainty, and consistency in the provision of relief for damages or physical injuries caused by a sewage disposal system event, a claimant and a governmental agency subject to a claim shall comply with this section and the procedures in sections 18 and 19.

(2) A governmental agency is immune from tort liability for the overflow or backup of a sewage disposal system unless the overflow or backup is a sewage disposal system event and the governmental agency is an appropriate governmental agency.*fn2 Sections 16 to 19 abrogate common law exceptions, if any, to immunity for the overflow or backup of a sewage disposal system and provide the sole remedy for obtaining any form of relief for damages or physical injuries caused by a sewage disposal system event regardless of the legal theory.

(3) If a claimant, including a claimant seeking non-economic damages, believes that an event caused property damage or physical injury, the claimant may seek compensation for the property damage or physical injury from a governmental agency if the claimant shows that all of the following existed at the time of the event:

(a) The governmental agency was an appropriate governmental agency.

(b) The sewage disposal system had a defect.

(c) The governmental agency knew, or in the exercise of reasonable diligence should have ...


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