The question presented is whether a governmental agency is immune from liability arising out of an accident involving a driver who drove through a red light near an elementary school and a ten-year-old student who had raced into the street. The student and his mother sued Wayne County on the theory that it was negligent because it failed to post school warning signs on that street. We hold that the trial court should have granted the defendant's motion for summary disposition on the ground of governmental immunity.
This case arises out of an accident that occurred on June 10, 1987, at the intersection of Outer Drive and Mendota in the City of Detroit. The plaintiff, Anthony Mason, who was engaged in a
Anthony Mason and his mother sued numerous defendants. Count V of the plaintiffs' sixth amended complaint alleged that the City of Detroit, Wayne County, and their employees breached their duties pursuant to MCL 691.1402; MSA 3.996(102) to maintain the streets and the intersection in reasonable repair. The complaint alleged that the defendants failed to install stop signs, a pedestrian overhead walkway, a flashing red stoplight, school advance signs, school crossing signs, school speed limit signs, and school pavement markings.
Before trial, the plaintiffs settled with the driver of the automobile. In addition, the court granted defendant City of Detroit's motion for summary disposition on the ground that the county had exclusive jurisdiction over the streets in question. Defendant Wayne County's motion for summary disposition on the basis of governmental immunity was denied.
The plaintiffs proceeded to trial against both Wayne County and the crossing guard who was stationed at the intersection. The jury found in favor of the crossing guard, but against Wayne County and awarded the plaintiffs two million dollars in damages.
Both the plaintiffs and Wayne County appealed. The Court of Appeals resolved several issues, all in favor of the plaintiff. With respect to governmental immunity, the Court affirmed the trial court's ruling denying the county's motion for summary
The county appealed, and we granted leave to appeal. 442 Mich. 924 (1993).
By statute, governmental agencies are immune from tort liability while engaging in a governmental function, except activities that fall within one of the narrowly drawn exceptions. See MCL 691.1407; MSA 3.996(107); Ross v Consumers Power Co (On Rehearing), 420 Mich. 567, 618; 363 N.W.2d 641 (1984). This case involves the highway exception. See MCL 691.1402(1); MSA 3.996(102)(1).
The highway exception specifically excepts the state and counties from liability for defects in crosswalks, the defect alleged by the plaintiff: "[t]he duty of the state and county road commissions to repair and maintain highways, and the liability therefor, shall extend only to the improved portion of the highway designed for vehicular travel and shall not include sidewalks, crosswalks, or any other installation outside of the
The exclusion of crosswalks from the highway exception is consistent with the idea underlying the highway exception — that drivers of vehicles should be able to keep their minds on the traffic, and should not have to worry that dangerous
This legislative line drawing is also explicable on the ground that expanding the right to sue past a certain point does not prevent accidents, and amounts to nothing more than an expanded obligation to pay.
For the foregoing reasons, we reverse the decision of the Court of Appeals and hold that the trial court erred when it denied the defendant's motion to dismiss on the basis of governmental immunity. The case is remanded to the trial court with instructions to grant the defendant's motion for summary disposition on the ground of governmental immunity.
CAVANAGH, C.J. (concurring in part and dissenting in part).
I agree with the conclusion that the trial court should have granted the defendant's motion for summary disposition on the ground of governmental immunity because "[t]he highway exception specifically excepts the state and counties from liability for defects in crosswalks, the defect alleged by the plaintiff...." Ante, p 135 (opinion of BOYLE, J.). I write separately to distance myself from the dicta contained in my sister's opinion: "The highway exception abrogates governmental immunity at `points of special danger to motorists....'" Id. (citations omitted). The instant case can be decided on the basis of the highway exception's specific exclusion of crosswalks.
LEVIN, J. (dissenting).
The question presented is whether Wayne County is subject to liability for failure to post school warning signs. I would hold that it is.
The highway exception to the governmental tort liability act
The majority states that the "highway exception abrogates governmental immunity at `points of special danger to motorists....'"
The obligation to keep the road "in condition
In Mechay v Detroit, 364 Mich. 576, 578-579; 111 N.W.2d 820 (1961), this Court held that the City of Detroit was subject to liability, under a statutory provision containing language identical to that reenacted in the highway exception, to a worker injured when a streetlight pole broke, throwing him to the ground, and said:
* * *
Although the fourth sentence of the highway exception
The fourth sentence imposes on cities and townships the duty to keep crosswalks and sidewalks "in condition reasonably safe and fit for travel."
Cities and townships are obliged under the first, second, and fourth sentences of the highway exception to provide signs and traffic signals reasonably necessary for pedestrian travel on city and township roads, sidewalks, and crosswalks, and also on sidewalks and crosswalks of state and county roads. But the state and the county have the obligation under the first and second sentences to provide signs and traffic signals respecting use of the highway reasonably necessary for the protection of motorists, their passengers, and other travelers, including pedestrians.
The majority errs in stating, as a matter of law, that "a school does not present a special danger to vehicles," and that "a school crossing is not a danger to vehicles and the vehicle passengers."
Outer Drive at this school crossing is a busy thoroughfare. Outer Drive is a boulevard for approximately a mile preceding the east boundary of the school, and for approximately a mile preceding the west boundary of the school. But it is not a boulevard for the few blocks immediately east and immediately west of the school. The speed limit is thirty-five miles an hour, but actual speeds exceed
As the Great Depression was about to descend on this nation, this Court observed that a highway authority "cannot confine its citizens in a traffic groove. It must take into account the natural inclination of children to run about in play and the perverse insistence of adults to cut corners and cross streets and grass plats instead of following precisely the beaten or provided path. Such departure from the sidewalk is not negligence per se in the individual, nor does it relieve the city of the duty to keep its streets in proper condition for travel at the places where people may reasonably be expected probably to walk. Lincoln v City of Detroit [101 Mich. 245; 59 NW 617 (1894)];[
The majority's disposition makes it unnecessary, in this dissenting opinion, to consider the other issues addressed in the briefs of counsel.
MALLETT, J., concurred with LEVIN, J.
This Court assumes that the Legislature intended to give terms in the governmental immunity act the same meaning as they have in the Motor Vehicle Code. See Roy v Dep't of Transportation, 428 Mich. 330, 338-340; 408 N.W.2d 783 (1987). Other sources also define "Crosswalk" as "a lane, usually marked, for pedestrians crossing a street or highway." See The Random House College Dictionary. A crosswalk should not be confused with a "pedestrian overhead walkway." Cf. MCL 257.627a(3); MSA 9.2327(1)(3). Unless the word is to be read out of existence, governmental agencies do not owe a duty to pedestrians in crosswalks. Pedestrians crossing outside crosswalks face the additional hurdle of comparative negligence.
The text of 1909 PA 283 is set forth in Chaney v Dep't of Transportation, 447 Mich. 145, 202, n 55; 523 N.W.2d 762 (1994) (LEVIN, J., dissenting). 1948 CL 224.21 carries forward, without change, the operative language of the 1909 act: