MAJ calls on Snyder to veto sidewalk injury bill

The Michigan Association for Justice in late December called on Gov. Rick Snyder to veto HB 4686, legislation that would effectively make municipalities completely immune from lawsuits related to injuries caused by faulty and dangerous sidewalks.

“HB 4686 is dangerous for Michigan,” MAJ President Tom Waun said. “This bill would make our communities less safe and less livable especially for the young, the elderly, and persons with disabilities.”

In the letter to the governor, Waun wrote: “Michigan law was amended in 2011 to address the issue of municipal responsibility for defective sidewalks. The MAJ worked with representatives of the municipalities and the original sponsor of the legislation (Senator Tonya Schuitmaker) to create a fair system that limited liability to those cases where a significant defect had gone unrepaired for some time and cause an injury.

“Under current law, municipalities are responsible to maintain their sidewalks in a reasonable manner and are presumed to have done so unless the injured party can show that there was discontinuity defect of two inches or more,” Waun said. “If the unevenness in the sidewalk is less than two inches, there is a strong presumption that there is no liability.

“Since they are already protected by the two-inch rule, allowing municipalities to use an ‘open and obvious’ defense would effectively make municipalities immune from lawsuits related to injuries caused by faulty sidewalks,” Waun added.

In closing, Waun wrote that the “bill would provide a disincentive to municipalities to invest in the kinds of ‘sense of place’ infrastructure like good sidewalks, bike paths, and roads that young talent and entrepreneurs are looking for when choosing a community to live, work, and play.”

The Michigan Association for Justice, formerly the Michigan Trial Lawyers Association (MTLA), is a trade association of over 1,600 plaintiff’s attorneys and staff, with offices in Lansing.