LANSING (WWJ/AP) – It’s likely to be harder to sue local governments in Michigan over a fall on a defective sidewalk.
Gov. Rick Snyder this week signed a law that gives local governments some extra protection: the so-called open-and-obvious defense that’s long been available to private businesses.
Under the defense, a local government can argue that a defect in a sidewalk or other public property should have been “open and obvious” to the person who was injured. It can be a tough legal threshold to overcome.
Personal injury lawyers oppose the law. They say local governments now will be effectively immune to lawsuits and have no incentive to fix broken sidewalks.
Supporters say Detroit pays millions annually in sidewalk-injury settlements and should have a defense that is available to businesses.
The Michigan Association of Justice, a group of plaintiff’s attorneys, had called for a veto, saying the bill effectively make cities entirely immune and removes incentives to maintain sidewalks.
Under existing law, cities aren’t liable unless someone proves the city knew or should have known about the defect at least 30 days before the injury and the unevenness in the walkway is at least 2 inches.
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