In these consolidated cases, this Court once again faces whether the plain language of § 7 of the governmental tort liability act, M.C.L. § 691.1407, permits a trespass-nuisance exception to governmental immunity. Because the Legislature's definition of the word "state" is clear and unambiguous, we hold that it does not. In so holding, we overrule Hadfield v. Oakland Co. Drain Comm'r, 430 Mich. 139, 422 N.W.2d 205 (1988), and other cases to the contrary. However, because we are mindful of the effect our holding will have on the administration of justice, we conclude that limiting our holding to prospective application is appropriate.
FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL POSTURE
POHUTSKI V. ALLEN PARK
The city of Allen Park experienced a "ten year storm" on February 17 and 18, 1998. As a result of the high volume of rainfall, raw sewage from the city's sewer system backed up through plaintiffs' floor drains and into their basements. Plaintiffs filed a class action against the city of Allen Park for trespass, nuisance, trespass-nuisance, negligence, and unconstitutional taking in April 1998. Plaintiffs thereafter sought summary disposition of their trespass-nuisance claim under MCR 2.116(C)(10). Plaintiffs argued that defendant was liable as a matter of law under the doctrine of trespass-nuisance and that Hadfield barred governmental immunity as a defense. Defendant opposed the motion, arguing that a claim of trespass-nuisance required a showing of causation, and that it could not be held strictly liable solely on the basis of its ownership of the sewer system.
In a brief opinion rendered from the bench, Wayne Circuit Judge Edward Thomas granted plaintiffs' motion for partial summary disposition, holding that defendant was strictly liable under the "trespass-nuisance" exception to governmental immunity. The Court of Appeals denied defendant's application for interlocutory review. Unpublished order, entered May 23, 2000 (Docket No. 222238).
JONES V. FARMINGTON HILLS
On August 6, 1998, a "one hundred year storm" dropped approximately 4.6 inches of rain in less than six hours on the city of
Oakland Circuit Judge Jessica Cooper denied defendants' motion and granted plaintiffs' motion for summary disposition of their trespass-nuisance claim. Judge Cooper held that trespass-nuisance was a recognized exception to the governmental immunity statute, M.C.L. § 691.1407, and that no genuine issues of material fact existed regarding the exception's three elements: (1) a condition (nuisance or trespass), (2) cause (physical intrusion), and (3) causation or control (by government).
After the trial court denied reconsideration, defendant applied for leave to appeal in the Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals granted the application and stayed the pending trial date. Plaintiffs then filed an emergency motion for rehearing. The Court of Appeals granted plaintiffs' motion, vacated its earlier order, and denied leave to appeal. Unpublished order, entered September 29, 2000 (Docket No. 227657).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
This Court reviews a trial court's decision to grant summary disposition de novo. Wickens v. Oakwood Healthcare System, 465 Mich. 53, 59, 631 N.W.2d 686 (2001). Questions of statutory interpretation are also reviewed de novo. In re MCI Telecommunications, 460 Mich. 396, 413, 596 N.W.2d 164 (1999).
THE GOVERNMENTAL TORT LIABILITY ACT
From the time of Michigan's statehood, this Court's jurisprudence has recognized that the state, as sovereign, is immune from suit unless it consents, and that any relinquishment of sovereign immunity must be strictly interpreted. Manion v. State Hwy. Comm'r, 303 Mich. 1, 19, 5 N.W.2d 527 (1942). Sovereign immunity exists in Michigan because the state created the courts and so is not subject to them. Ross v. Consumers Power Co. (On Rehearing), 420 Mich. 567, 598, 363 N.W.2d 641 (1984).
It is important to distinguish between "sovereign immunity" and "governmental immunity":
* * *
... Over the years, by judicial construction, this "sovereign" immunity has been transmogrified into "governmental"
In Williams v. Detroit, 364 Mich. 231, 250, 111 N.W.2d 1 (1961), Justice EDWARDS, joined by Justices T.M. KAVANAGH, SMITH, and SOURIS, wrote: "From this date forward the judicial doctrine of governmental immunity from ordinary torts no longer exists in Michigan. In this case, we overrule preceding court-made law to the contrary." Justice BLACK, in his concurring opinion, stated that governmental immunity would be abolished only for municipalities, not the state and its subdivisions. Id. at 278, 111 N.W.2d 1.
As we noted in Ross, supra at 605, 363 N.W.2d 641, the Legislature enacted the governmental tort liability act in 1964 in reaction to Williams' abolition of common-law governmental immunity for municipalities, and in anticipation of a similar abrogation of immunity for counties, townships, and villages. The act "was intended to provide uniform liability and immunity to both state and local governmental agencies" when involved in a governmental function. Id. at 614, 363 N.W.2d 641. While there is agreement regarding the statute's intent, there has been much disagreement regarding its meaning.
When faced with questions of statutory interpretation, our obligation is to discern and give effect to the Legislature's intent as expressed in the words of the statute. DiBenedetto v. West Shore Hosp., 461 Mich. 394, 402, 605 N.W.2d 300 (2000); Massey v. Mandell, 462 Mich. 375, 379-380, 614 N.W.2d 70(2000). We give the words of a statute their plain and ordinary meaning, looking outside the statute to ascertain the Legislature's intent only if the statutory language is ambiguous. Turner v. Auto Club Ins. Ass'n, 448 Mich. 22, 27, 528 N.W.2d 681 (1995). Where the language is unambiguous, "we presume that the Legislature intended the meaning clearly expressed— no further judicial construction is required or permitted, and the statute must be enforced as written." DiBenedetto, supra at 402, 605 N.W.2d 300. Similarly, courts may not speculate about an unstated purpose where the unambiguous text plainly reflects the intent of the Legislature. See Lansing v. Lansing Twp., 356 Mich. 641, 649-650, 97 N.W.2d 804 (1959).
When parsing a statute, we presume every word is used for a purpose. As far as possible, we give effect to every clause and sentence. "The Court may not assume that the Legislature inadvertently made use of one word or phrase instead of another." Robinson v. Detroit, 462 Mich. 439, 459, 613 N.W.2d 307 (2000). Similarly, we should take care to avoid a construction that renders any part of the statute surplusage or nugatory. In re MCI, supra at 414, 596 N.W.2d 164.
With these principles of statutory construction in mind, we turn to the language of M.C.L. § 691.1407(1), which provides:
Except as otherwise provided in this act, a governmental agency is immune from tort liability if the governmental agency is engaged in the exercise or discharge of a governmental function. Except as otherwise provided in this act, this act does not modify or restrict the immunity of the state from tort liability as it existed before July 1, 1965, which
"Governmental agency" and "state" are not synonymous, nor are they interchangeable. Rather, each is precisely defined in the statute:
Under a plain reading of the statute, then, the first sentence of § 7 applies to both municipal corporations and the state, while the second sentence applies only to the state. Despite the Legislature's clear and unambiguous use of the word "state" in the second sentence, this Court has struggled with its meaning.
HADFIELD V. OAKLAND CO DRAIN COMM'R
In Hadfield, we considered whether the trespass-nuisance exception to governmental immunity, as a common-law tort-based exception, survived the governmental tort liability act. We concluded that recognition of the historic trespass-nuisance exception was required by the language of § 7. In so holding, we strayed from the plain language of the statute, despite our claim that we "moved carefully to impose judicial construction only upon those terms in the statute that required interpretation." Id. at 173, 422 N.W.2d 205.
Hadfield correctly interpreted the first sentence of § 7 because it focused on the plain language chosen by the Legislature:
Hadfield went astray, however, in interpreting the second sentence of § 7. Ignoring the second sentence's express application only to the "state," the Hadfield Court held that "the second sentence of § 7 retains preexisting governmental immunity law except where provided otherwise in the act" and concluded that it required "a continuation of the nuisance exception as formulated prior to the enactment of the governmental immunity act in 1964, as amended by 1970 PA 155." Id. at 147, 149, 422 N.W.2d 205 (emphasis added).
LI V. FELDT
This Court reaffirmed Hadfield's erroneous interpretation of the second sentence of § 7 in Li v. Feldt (After Remand), 434 Mich. 584, 592-594, 456 N.W.2d 55 (1990). Justice GRIFFIN, in his opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part,
Justice GRIFFIN worried that the historical approach adopted by the Hadfield plurality and reaffirmed by Li would "leave[ ] ajar the door to additional immunity exceptions that cannot be fairly culled from the language of § 7." Id. at 602, 456 N.W.2d 55. He noted that nothing in the plain language of § 7 indicated a legislative intent to create a nuisance exception to governmental immunity, and concluded:
We agree with Justice Griffin's analysis and adopt it today. We hold that while the first sentence of § 7 applies to both municipalities and the state, the clear and unambiguous language of the second sentence of § 7 applies only to the state, as defined in the statute.
THE TRESPASS NUISANCE EXCEPTION
Because these cases involve cities, the second sentence of § 7 does not apply; any trespass-nuisance exception must therefore come from the first section of § 7. The first sentence provides:
The parties agree that the operation of a sewage system is a governmental function. Thus, under the terms of the statute, municipal corporations are immune from tort liability except as otherwise provided in the act.
The act sets forth five statutory exceptions to governmental immunity: the highway exception, M.C.L. § 691.1402; the motor vehicle exception, M.C.L. § 691. 1405; the public building exception, M.C.L. § 691.1406; the proprietary function exception, M.C.L. § 691.1413; and the governmental hospital exception, M.C.L. § 691.1407(4). In determining if the statutory exceptions permit a trespass-nuisance exception, we are guided by the principle expressed in Nawrocki v. Macomb Co. Rd. Comm., 463 Mich. 143, 158, 615 N.W.2d 702 (2000): "There is one basic principle that must guide our decision today: the immunity conferred upon governmental agencies is broad, and the statutory exceptions thereto are to be narrowly construed." (Emphasis in original.)
With this principle in mind, we hold that the plain language of the governmental tort liability act does not contain a trespass-nuisance exception to governmental immunity. Trespass-nuisance simply is not one of the five exceptions to immunity set forth in the governmental tort liability act. As stated above, we are bound by the clear and unambiguous statutory text; we lack constitutional authority to impose on the people of this state our individual policy preferences regarding the availability of lawsuits arising from the operation of a
Plaintiffs argue that if the second sentence of § 7 applies only to the state and not to all governmental agencies, it violates the Title Object Clause, Const. 1963, art. 4, § 24. We reject this argument.
We note at the outset that "all possible presumptions should be afforded to find constitutionality." Advisory Opinion re Constitutionality of 1972 Pa. 294, 389 Mich. 441, 464, 208 N.W.2d 469 (1973). Const. 1963, art. 4, § 24 provides in pertinent part:
This constitutional provision requires that (1) a law must not embrace more than one object, and (2) the object of the law must be expressed in its title. Livonia v. Dep't of Social Services, 423 Mich. 466, 496, 378 N.W.2d 402 (1985). This constitutional limitation ensures that legislators and the public receive proper notice of legislative content and prevents deceit and subterfuge. Advisory Opinion, supra at 465, 208 N.W.2d 469. The goal of the clause is notice, not restriction of legislation.
The "object" of a law is defined as its general purpose or aim. Local No. 1644 v. Oakwood Hosp. Corp., 367 Mich. 79, 91, 116 N.W.2d 314 (1962). The "one object" provision must be construed reasonably, not in so narrow or technical a manner that the legislative intent is frustrated. Kuhn v. Dep't of Treasury, 384 Mich. 378, 387-388, 183 N.W.2d 796 (1971). We should not invalidate legislation simply because it contains more than one means of attaining its primary object; "[h]owever, if the act contains `subjects diverse in their nature, and having no necessary connection,' "it violates the Title Object Clause. Livonia, supra at 499, 378 N.W.2d 402. The act may include all matters germane to its object, as well as all provisions that directly relate to, carry out, and implement the principal object. Advisory Opinion, supra at 465, 208 N.W.2d 469. The statute "may authorize the doing of all things which are in furtherance of the general purpose of the Act without violating the `one object' limitation of art. 4, § 24." Kuhn, supra at 388, 183 N.W.2d 796. Finally, the constitutional requirement is not that the title refer to every detail of the act; rather, "[i]t is sufficient that the act centers to one main general object or purpose which the title comprehensively declares, though in general terms, and if provisions in the body of the act not directly mentioned in the title are germane, auxiliary, or incidental to that general purpose...." Livonia, supra at 501, 378 N.W.2d 402 (citations omitted).
The title of the governmental tort liability act provides:
An act to make uniform the liability of municipal corporations, political subdivisions, and the state, its agencies and departments, officers, employees, and volunteers thereof, and members of certain boards, councils, and task forces when engaged in the exercise or discharge
Plaintiffs contend that the act would exceed the scope of its title were the second sentence of § 7 construed to allow differentiation between the immunity of the state and the immunity of inferior governmental agencies. We reject this argument. The title of the act only provides that the immunity of all governmental agencies will be made uniform for circumstances involving "the exercise or discharge of a governmental function." This is accomplished by the first sentence of § 7, which confers uniform statutory immunity on all governmental entities engaged in the exercise or discharge of a governmental function. In enacting the second sentence of § 7, the Legislature ensured that, "by restoring to municipal corporations immunity for governmental functions and making uniform the immunity of all governmental entities for governmental functions, it was not thereby waiving the state's common-law absolute sovereign immunity for nongovernmental functions...." Ross, supra at 669, 363 N.W.2d 641 (LEVIN, J., dissenting in part).
In essence, the Legislature defined the scope of the first sentence of § 7 through the second sentence. Such a limitation cannot be considered a subject diverse in nature that has no necessary connection to the primary object of the act. The limitation in the second sentence is clearly germane, auxiliary, and incidental to the general purpose of the act. Therefore, the act as interpreted does not violate art. 4, § 24.
We do not lightly overrule precedent. Stare decisis is generally "`the preferred course because it promotes the evenhanded, predictable, and consistent development of legal principles, fosters reliance on judicial decisions, and contributes to the actual and perceived integrity of the judicial process.'" Robinson, supra at 463, 613 N.W.2d 307 quoting Hohn v. United States, 524 U.S. 236, 251, 118 S.Ct. 1969, 141 L.Ed.2d 242 (1998). Before we overrule a prior decision, we must be convinced "not merely that the case was wrongly decided, but also that less injury will result from overruling than from following it." McEvoy v. Sault Ste Marie, 136 Mich. 172, 178, 98 N.W. 1006 (1904).
At the same time, we must also remember that stare decisis is a principle of policy, not an inexorable command. Robinson, supra at 464, 613 N.W.2d 307. Stare decisis should not be applied mechanically to prevent this Court from overruling erroneous decisions regarding the meaning of a statute. Id. at 463, 613 N.W.2d 307. In Robinson, supra at 464, 613 N.W.2d 307 we set forth four factors that we consider before overruling a prior decision: 1) whether the earlier case was wrongly decided, 2) whether the decision defies "practical workability," 3) whether reliance interests would work an undue hardship, and 4) whether changes in the law or facts no longer justify the questioned decision. In considering the reliance
Thus, while too rapid a change in the law threatens judicial legitimacy, correcting past rulings that usurp legislative power restores legitimacy. Id. at 472-473 (CORRIGAN, J., concurring).
Accordingly, we must shoulder our constitutional duty to act within our grant of authority and honor the intent of the Legislature as reflected in the plain and unambiguous language of the statute. In so doing, we rectify Hadfield's misconstruction of the statutory text.
We are mindful, however, of the effect our decision may have in overruling Hadfield's interpretation of § 7. As this Court noted in Placek v. Sterling Heights, 405 Mich. 638, 665, 275 N.W.2d 511 (1979), quoting Williams v. Detroit, 364 Mich. 231, 265-266, 111 N.W.2d 1 (1961):
After taking into account the entire situation confronting the Court, we hold that our decision shall have only prospective application.
Although the general rule is that judicial decisions are given full retroactive effect, Hyde v. Univ. of Michigan Bd. of Regents, 426 Mich. 223, 240, 393 N.W.2d 847 (1986), a more flexible approach is warranted where injustice might result from full retroactivity. Lindsey v. Harper Hosp., 455 Mich. 56, 68, 564 N.W.2d 861 (1997). For example, a holding that overrules settled precedent may properly be limited to prospective application. Id. Moreover, the federal constitution does not preclude state courts from determining whether their own law-changing decisions are applied prospectively or retroactively. Great Northern R Co. v.
This Court adopted from Linkletter v. Walker, 381 U.S. 618, 85 S.Ct. 1731, 14 L.Ed.2d 601 (1965), three factors to be weighed in determining when a decision should not have retroactive application. Those factors are: (1) the purpose to be served by the new rule, (2) the extent of reliance on the old rule, and (3) the effect of retroactivity on the administration of justice. People v. Hampton, 384 Mich. 669, 674, 187 N.W.2d 404 (1971). In the civil context, a plurality of this Court noted that Chevron Oil v. Huson, 404 U.S. 97, 106-107, 92 S.Ct. 349, 30 L.Ed.2d 296 (1971), recognized an additional threshold question whether the decision clearly established a new principle of law. Riley v. Northland Geriatric Center (After Remand), 431 Mich. 632, 645-646, 433 N.W.2d 787 (1988) (GRIFFIN, J.).
We turn first to the threshold question noted in Riley. Although this opinion gives effect to the intent of the Legislature that may be reasonably be inferred from the text of the governing statutory provisions, practically speaking our holding is akin to the announcement of a new rule of law, given the erroneous interpretations set forth in Hadfield and Li. See Riley, supra; Gusler v. Fairview Tubular Products, 412 Mich. 270, 298, 315 N.W.2d 388 (1981).
Application of the three-part test leads to the conclusion that prospective application is appropriate here. First, we consider the purpose of the new rule set forth in this opinion: to correct an error in the interpretation of § 7 of the governmental tort liability act. Prospective application would further this purpose. See Riley, supra at 646, 433 N.W.2d 787. Second, there has been extensive reliance on Hadfield's interpretation of § 7 of the governmental tort liability act. In addition to reliance by the courts, insurance decisions have undoubtedly been predicated upon this Court's longstanding interpretation of § 7 under Hadfield: municipalities have been encouraged to purchase insurance, while homeowners have been discouraged from doing the same. Prospective application acknowledges that reliance. Third, prospective application minimizes the effect of this decision on the administration of justice. Consideration of recently enacted 2001 PA 222
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
2001 PA 222 does not contain any language indicating it is meant to apply retroactively, but provides only that it is to take immediate effect. Section 19(1) provides that a claimant is not entitled to compensation under the statute unless the claimant notifies the governmental agency of a claim of damage or physical injury, in writing, within forty-five days after the date the damage or physical injury was or should have been discovered. Only two exceptions to the forty-five-day limit are available: if the claimant notified the contacting agency during the forty-five-day period or if the failure to comply resulted from the contacting agency's failure to comply with notice requirements. Given the absence of any language indicating retroactive effect, the forty-five-day notice limit, and the presumption that statutes operate prospectively,
Thus, if we applied our holding in this case retroactively, the plaintiffs in cases currently pending would not be afforded relief under Hadfield or 2001 PA 222. Rather, they would become a distinct class of litigants denied relief because of an unfortunate circumstance of timing.
Accordingly, this decision will be applied only to cases brought on or after April 2, 2002. In all cases currently pending, the interpretation set forth in Hadfield will apply.
The parties have addressed whether trespass nuisance is not a tort within the meaning of the governmental immunity statute, but rather an unconstitutional taking of property that violates Const. 1963, art. 10, § 2. The trial courts in these cases have yet to address the taking claims. Therefore, we decline to discuss those claims at this time.
We hold that the first sentence of § 7, by its plain language, applies to both the state and its municipalities, but that the second sentence of § 7 applies only to the state, as defined in the statute. We overrule precedent holding to the contrary. Further, we hold that the statute as interpreted in this opinion does not violate Const. 1963, art. 4, § 24. After consideration of the effect of this decision on the administration of justice, we hold that this decision is limited to prospective application.
Finally, we observe that it appears from the record that the circuit courts may not have addressed all the elements required under Hadfield for a claim of trespass-nuisance, including causation, when deciding the motions for summary disposition. Therefore, we remand these cases to the circuit courts to reconsider plaintiffs' motions for summary disposition under Hadfield, including the issue of causation. See Hadfield, supra at 169, 422 N.W.2d 205; Peterman v. Dep't of Natural Resources, 446 Mich. 177, 205, n. 42, 521 N.W.2d 499 (1994).
WEAVER, TAYLOR, YOUNG, and MARKMAN, JJ., concurred with CORRIGAN, C.J.
The majority's decision today overrules many years of Michigan jurisprudence interpreting the government tort liability act (GTLA). Its rationale for upsetting the well-reasoned precedent of this Court is that it brings the statute's construction closer to the Legislature's intent. I find this patently inaccurate.
Repeatedly, beginning with the decision in Ross v. Consumers Power (On Rehearing),
I. INTERPRETATION OF THE GOVERNEMENT TORT LIABILITY ACT
Whenever a court interprets a statute, it attempts to ascertain and fulfill the Legislature's intent in passing it. Reardon v. Dep't of Mental Health, 430 Mich. 398, 407, 424 N.W.2d 248 (1988). It seeks to identify the object of the statute and the harm it was designed to remedy. It endeavors to make a construction that is at once reasonable and analyzed so as best to accomplish the purposes of the statute. Marquis v. Hartford Accident & Indemnity Co., 444 Mich. 638, 513 N.W.2d 799 (1994). It construes the statute's provisions not in isolation, but in context. Sun Valley Foods Co. v. Ward, 460 Mich. 230, 596 N.W.2d 119 (1999).
Having applied these principles, I conclude, as did the Court in Hadfield v. Oakland Co. Drain Comm'rs,
The Legislature enacted the GTLA in 1965 as a response to Williams v. Detroit,
The title of the GTLA reads as follows:
The language is unequivocal. It expresses an intent to reestablish and codify a consistent and uniform form of governmental immunity, restoring the shield to municipal governments while in the exercise of a governmental function. After detailing some statutory exceptions to immunity, § 7 of the statute states:
Except as otherwise provided in this act, all governmental agencies shall be immune from tort liability in all cases wherein the governmental agency is engaged in the exercise or discharge of a
In the cases before us today, the defendants argue that the word "state" in the second sentence of § 7 bars common-law exceptions to immunity for "all governmental agencies." The majority goes further, holding that there were no common-law exceptions to even the state's governmental immunity.
I disagree with the former and dissent from the latter. With respect to the former, Ross shows that the word "state" must be read consistently with the creation of a uniform system of immunity between municipal, local, and state governments. With respect to the latter, Hadfield confirmed that common-law exceptions existed that did survive the enactment of the GTLA.
A. ROSS V. CONSUMERS POWER CO.
The Ross decision dealt with the use of the word "state" in the GTLA. It held that its placement there presented a clear conflict with the purpose and title of the act. We faced the same dilemma over § 13
The Court took the exception for "the state" and applied it to all governmental entities. It rejected the plain meaning of § 13 because, so read, it would have limited the proprietary function exception to the state and its agencies, departments, and commissions. The Court declined to find that restriction in the act because it was clearly not what the Legislature intended. It observed:
The Court concluded that restricting § 13 to state government would run contrary to the goal and intent of the act, namely, a uniform system of liability and immunity. Moreover, it would abolish a longstanding exception to common-law immunity without the presence of any clear indications of legislative intent to do so. The Legislature codified this Court's reading of§ 13 of the act two years later by substituting the words "governmental agency" for the word "state."
B. HADFIELD V. OAKLAND CO. DRAIN COMM'R
Two years after the Legislature effectively ratified Ross's interpretation of § 13, the Court decided Hadfield, supra. It found that the Legislature had used "state" in § 7, as it had in § 13, to mean "governmental agency." The defendant in Hadfield argued that there were no common-law
Once again, the Court saw a conflict between the language of the statute, legislative intent, and an historic immunity exception. It concluded:
The Court rejected the defendant's argument using this reasoning: The second sentence of § 7 requires that the state's governmental immunity remain as it existed before July 1, 1965. The trespass-nuisance exception is strongly rooted in Michigan's history. Nothing in the expressions of the Legislature indicated an intention to change it.
Today's holding discards the conclusion in Hadfield by reinterpreting the second sentence of § 7 as an expansion of sovereign immunity. I strenuously disagree with this newfound purpose for the statute. Both the first sentence and the second sentence of § 7 use the words "tort liability." Therefore, the type of liability and immunity the Legislature intended in the first sentence, it also intended in the second. According to the second sentence, the immunity from liability was not to be modified or expanded from what existed under the common law.
That reasoning, coupled with the intention to create a uniform system that we found in Ross, leads to one conclusion only: the Legislature meant to keep the state's sovereign immunity where it was before July 1965, preventing its expansion or erosion, and to extend it uniformly to all other governmental entities. The common-law exception of trespass-nuisance thus would have survived.
C. LEGISLATIVE CONFIRMATION OF THE EXCEPTION
This year the Legislature enacted 2001 PA 222,
This language acknowledges that there are or, at least, may be common-law exceptions to governmental immunity. Given the intent and the timing of the act, it is apparent that the Legislature sought to prevent this Court from barring homeowner suits for damages.
2001 PA 222 is not alone in acknowledging the likely existence of common-law exceptions to governmental immunity. The Legislature also suggests their existence in § 7a of the GTLA, which it passed in anticipation of Year 2000 computer failures.
This language indicates that an action to recover damages could be founded on § 7, a section that the majority believes is merely an assertion of state immunity. Section 7a of the GTLA and 2001 PA 222, in conjunction with the legislative intent described in Ross and Hadfield, are convincing evidence that the Legislature did not abrogate common-law exceptions to immunity with § 7.
D. SCOPE OF TITLE
The majority's treatment of the Title Object Clause
Since Justice Cooley's time, the clause has been applied to insure that adequate notice of new legislation be given to the general public and to those affected by it. Maki v. East Tawas, 385 Mich. 151, 156-158, 188 N.W.2d 593 (1971). To accomplish that end and to avoid deception and subterfuge, the clause requires that the scope of all legislation must fall within the scope of its title. Id., Kurtz v. People, 33 Mich. 279, 281 (1876). In addition, the clause requires that no law embrace more than one object, which must be expressed in the title.
The title of the GTLA indicates a desire for a "uniform" system of liability. However, the majority's construction of § 7 of the act accomplishes the opposite. The majority examines the differences between sovereign and governmental function immunity. It then concludes that, under its reading of the act, the system will be uniform as regards governmental function immunity. It finds that reaffirmation of sovereign immunity was incidental to the purpose of the act.
I disagree. If the first sentence of § 7 codifies a consistent governmental function immunity and the second reaffirms the state's sovereign immunity, the second sentence falls outside the requirements of the Title Object Clause. It is beyond the scope of the act's title to "affirm" and codify the state's common-law sovereign immunity, because the title refers only to an immunity enjoyed "when engaged in the discharge of governmental function." MCL 691.1401 et seq. It is also beyond the act's scope to allow different governmental immunity at different levels of government, as the majority finds it does.
The Ross and Hadfield decisions construed the act in a way that does not violate the Title Object Clause. The Ross Court held that § 7 uses the expression "sovereign immunity" to include governmental functions. The expression was the tool by which the Legislature made all immunity uniform when a unit of government was performing a governmental function. Under this interpretation, the affirmation of sovereign immunity is germane to the creation of a uniform system of liability and immunity.
II. THE CONSTITUTIONAL BASIS FOR THE TRESPASS-NUISANCE EXCEPTION
Overlooked in the majority's analysis of the Legislature's intent is whether the trespass-nuisance exception enjoys a constitutional basis that defeats a statutory grant of governmental immunity. The majority treats the question as part of the plaintiffs' taking claim that has yet to be adjudicated below.
This Court in Buckeye Union Fire Ins. Co. v. Michigan
Not even the state can intrude on a citizen's lawful possession of his property. Ashley v. Port Huron, 35 Mich. 296, 300 (1877); Herro v. Chippewa Co. Rd. Comm'rs, 368 Mich. 263, 272, 118 N.W.2d 271 (1962). And the protection of one's property rights is not accomplished solely through actions for eminent domain. One may sue under the Taking Clause.
Also, actions under the clause are not limited to claims alleging an absolute conversion of property. Pearsall v. Supervisors, 74 Mich. 558, 42 N.W. 77 (1889). The action of a governmental agency may constitute a taking when it interferes with, damages, or destroys the property of an individual. Buckeye, supra at 642, 178 N.W.2d 476.
Since 1860, this Court has relied on the Taking Clause to support actions for trespass-nuisance. This Court has held many times that an invasion by government-controlled waters or sewage creates a cause of action against which governmental immunity is not a bar.
On the basis of that long-established precedent, I would hold that a trespass-nuisance cause of action is constitutionally based and cannot be abrogated by the Legislature. The actions of the defendants here in flooding the plaintiffs' basements constitute a "taking," and damages, if proven, should be available. The basis for recovery is that the government deprived plaintiffs of the useful possession of property that they own. Gerzeski v. Dep't of State Hwy., 403 Mich. 149, 170, 268 N.W.2d 525 (1978).
III. APPLICATION OF THE TRESPASS NUISANSE EXCEPTION
Trespass-nuisance refers to a "trespass or interference with the use or enjoyment of land caused by a physical intrusion that is set in motion by the government or its agents and result[s] in personal or property.
In both cases before us, plaintiffs' basements have been flooded by discarded water
The majority finds that the trespass-nuisance exception to governmental immunity ended in 1965 with passage of the GTLA. I disagree with its conclusion because of subsequent judicial precedent upholding the exception and the lack of clear legislative intent to alter it. Moreover, any legislative attempt to remove the trespass-nuisance exception must be found invalid because a cause of action under the exception is constitutionally based in the Taking Clause.
In making its ruling, the majority discards longstanding and well-reasoned precedent of this Court in order to make its own interpretation of a Michigan statute.
But what must be apparent to all, when the rhetoric is stripped of its gloss, is that this Court is again ignoring its own past rulings. And, if each successive Court, believing its reading is correct and past readings wrong, rejects precedent, then the law will fluctuate from year to year, rendering our jurisprudence dangerously unstable. The majority's decision to limit its interpretation of the statute to prospective use is little more than a furnishing of salve to stem a hemorrhage. For all the above reasons, I respectfully dissent.
MICHAEL F. CAVANAGH, J., concurred with MARILYN J. KELLY, J.