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Goodhue v. Department of Transportation

Court of Appeals of Michigan

May 16, 2017

THOMAS GOODHUE, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, Defendant-Appellee.

         Court of Claims LC No. 15-000224-MD

          Before: Gadola, P.J., and Jansen and Saad, JJ.

          PER CURIAM.

         Plaintiff appeals the trial court's order that granted defendant's motion for summary disposition pursuant to MCR 2.116(C)(7). For the reasons provided below, we affirm.

         I. BASIC FACTS

         Plaintiff was a U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officer who worked at the Blue Water Bridge. On April 8, 2015, plaintiff stepped into a hole in one of the toll booth lanes and injured himself.

         On May 18, 2015, plaintiff served defendant with a notice of intent to file a claim. And on October 5, 2015, plaintiff filed suit in the court of claims. After defendant initially moved for summary disposition under MCR 2.116(C)(7), plaintiff filed an amended complaint, wherein he claimed that three exceptions to governmental immunity applied. In Count I, plaintiff alleged that defendant was not immune from suit based on the roadway exception; in Count II, plaintiff alleged that defendant was not immune from suit because it was engaging in a proprietary function at the time of the incident; and in Count III, plaintiff alleged that defendant was not immune from tort liability because of the public-building exception to governmental immunity.

         Defendant thereafter filed an amended motion for summary disposition. Defendant argued that Counts I and III were barred because plaintiff failed to file his claim in the court of claims within 120 days, which violates the notice requirement of MCL 691.1404. Defendant also argued that Count II was barred because its operation of the Blue Water Bridge was not a proprietary function. The trial court agreed and ultimately granted defendant's motion on all counts.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         We review a trial court's decision on a motion for summary disposition de novo. Moraccini v Sterling Heights, 296 Mich.App. 387, 391; 822 N.W.2d 799 (2012). Summary disposition is appropriate under MCR 2.116(C)(7) if a claim is barred because of, among other things, "immunity granted by law." When reviewing a motion for summary disposition under this subrule, a court accepts "all well-pleaded factual allegations as true and construe[s] them in favor of the plaintiff, unless other evidence contradicts them." Dextrom v Wexford Co, 287 Mich.App. 406, 428; 789 N.W.2d 211 (2010). Further,

[i]f any affidavits, depositions, admissions, or other documentary evidence are submitted, the court must consider them to determine whether there is a genuine issue of material fact. If no facts are in dispute, and if reasonable minds could not differ regarding the legal effect of those facts, the question whether the claim is barred is an issue for the court. [Id. at 429 (citations omitted).]

         We also review issues of statutory interpretation de novo. City of Riverview v Sibley Limestone, 270 Mich.App. 627, 630; 716 N.W.2d 615 (2006).

         III. ANALYSIS

         Under Michigan's governmental tort liability act (GTLA), MCL 691.1401 et seq., governmental agencies are immune from tort liability when they are "engaged in the exercise or discharge of a governmental function." MCL 691.1407(1). However, the act provides several exceptions to this broad grant of immunity.[1] As noted, plaintiff contends that three exceptions are relevant: (1) the ...


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