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Reed v. State

Court of Appeals of Michigan

May 24, 2018

JACQUELINE ANNA REED, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
STATE OF MICHIGAN and DEPARTMENT OF TECHNOLOGY, MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET, Defendants-Appellants.

          Court of Claims LC No. 16-000163-MZ

          Before: Meter, P.J., and Gadola and Tukel, JJ.

          PER CURIAM.

         In this case brought under the public-building exception to governmental immunity, MCL 691.1406, defendants appeal as of right the order of the Court of Claims denying their motion for summary disposition pursuant to MCR 2.116(C)(7). We affirm.

         On June 12, 2015, plaintiff was walking on the "front porch" of the Michigan Hall of Justice in Lansing when she tripped on "sunken and uneven brick pavers, " causing her to fall and sustain personal injuries. On September 29, 2015, plaintiff filed, in triplicate, a "Notice of Injury and Defect pursuant to MCL 691.1406" with the clerk of the Court of Claims. Plaintiff later filed a complaint in the Court of Claims on July 12, 2016.

         Defendants sought summary disposition pursuant to MCR 2.116(C)(7), claiming that they were immune from suit because plaintiff failed to comply with the notice requirements of MCL 691.1406 by not serving notice on "the responsible governmental agency, " defendant Department of Technology, Management and Budget (DTMB). In response, plaintiff argued that she satisfied the notice requirements by filing her notice in triplicate with the Court of Claims, as required by MCL 691.1404. The trial court denied defendants' motion, holding that based on MCL 691.1404, MCL 691.1406, and this Court's decision in Goodhue v Dep't of Transp, 319 Mich.App. 526; 904 N.W.2d 203 (2017), filing the notice in triplicate with the clerk of the Court of Claims was all that was required to fulfill the notice requirements of MCL 691.1404 and MCL 691.1406.

         Defendant argues that governmental immunity bars this action because the statute required plaintiff to serve notice on the DTMB individually and also file the notice in triplicate with the Court of Claims. We disagree.

         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). In deciding a motion for summary disposition under MCR 2.116(C)(7), a court must consider any affidavits, pleadings, depositions, admissions, and documentary evidence in the action or submitted by the parties. MCR 2.116(G)(5). The facts as alleged in the complaint "must be accepted as true unless contradicted" by the submitted evidence, and the court evaluates all evidence "in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party" in evaluating a claim under MCR 2.116(C)(7). Moraccini, 296 Mich.App. at 391. We also review de novo a determination regarding the application of a statutory exception to governmental immunity. Snead v John Carlo, Inc, 294 Mich.App. 343, 354; 813 N.W.2d 294 (2011).

         When interpreting a statute, the "primary goal is to give effect to the intent of the Legislature." Rowland v Washtenaw Co Rd Comm, 477 Mich. 197, 202; 731 N.W.2d 41 (2007). The words used in a statute are the "most reliable indicator" of intent and the words "should be interpreted based on their ordinary meaning and the context within which they are used in the statute." Dep't of Envtl Quality v Worth Twp, 491 Mich. 227, 237-238; 814 N.W.2d 846 (2012). When the words are unambiguous, the court gives them "their plain meaning." Rowland, 477 Mich. at 202. When the Legislature's intent is not clear from the plain language, "courts must interpret statutes in a way that gives effect to every word, phrase, and clause in a statute and avoid an interpretation that would render any part of the statute surplusage or nugatory." Haynes v Village of Beulah, 308 Mich.App. 465, 468; 865 N.W.2d 923 (2014) (quotation marks and citation omitted).

         The governmental tort liability act (GTLA), MCL 691.1401 et seq., provides immunity from tort liability to governmental agencies when they are engaged in the exercise or discharge of a governmental function. MCL 691.1407(1); Moraccini, 296 Mich.App. at 391. However, the GTLA also provides several exceptions to this broad grant of immunity. Wesche v Mecosta Co Rd Comm, 480 Mich. 75, 84; 746 N.W.2d 847 (2008). One of those exceptions is the public-building exception and is codified in MCL 691.1406 and states in relevant part:

Governmental agencies have the obligation to repair and maintain public buildings under their control when open for use by members of the public. Governmental agencies are liable for bodily injury and property damage resulting from a dangerous condition or defective condition of a public building if the governmental agency had actual or constructive knowledge of the defect and, for a reasonable time after acquiring knowledge, failed to remedy the condition or to take action reasonably necessary to protect the public against the condition. . . . As a condition to any recovery for injuries sustained by reason of any dangerous or defective public building, the injured person, within 120 days from the time the injury occurred, shall serve a notice on the responsible governmental agency of the occurrence of the injury and the defect. The notice shall specify the exact location and nature of the defect, the injury sustained and the names of the witnesses known at the time by the claimant.

         The notice may be served upon any individual, either personally, or by certified mail, return receipt requested, who may lawfully be served with civil process directed against the responsible governmental agency, anything to the contrary in the charter of any municipal corporation notwithstanding. . . . Notice to the state of Michigan shall be given as provided in [MCL 691.1404]. [Emphasis added.]

         MCL 691.1404(2), in turn, provides in pertinent part,

The notice may be served upon any individual, either personally, or by certified mail, return receipt requested, who may lawfully be served with civil process directed against the governmental agency, anything to the contrary in the charter of any municipal corporation notwithstanding. In case of the state, [1] such notice shall be filed in triplicate with the clerk of the court of claims. Filing of such ...

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