LANSING, Mich. (Michigan News Source) – Michiganders who choose to file a lawsuit against a County Road Commission for not keeping roads “reasonably safe and convenient for public travel” would be given clearer filing instructions under new house bills.
According to Representative Nate Shannon (D-Sterling Heights), House Bill 4940 would not affect who is liable for road conditions, but rather just make clear the filing timeline for a lawsuit.
“These bipartisan bills, House Bills 4940 and 4941, will provide clarity and resolve confusion on what statute governs Michigan county road commissions and counties when it comes to civil actions,” said Chair of the Transportation, Mobility, and Infrastructure Committee, Nate Shannon in an email to Michigan News Source.
Part of the unclarity for statutes stems from a Michigan Supreme Court decision from 2021 between Estate of Brendon Pearce v. Eaton County Road Commission, which sought to clarify the two statutes regarding liability for road defects, the County Road Law and the Governmental Immunity Act.
“The case issue between the parties was that the County Road Law provides a 60-day period to file a claim, while the Governmental Immunity Act provides for a 120-day period to file,” Rep. Shannon said in the email. “It is this lack of clarity that has sparked the creation of more clear and concise laws through bipartisan House Bills 4940 and 4941.”
Rep. Shannon shared his gratitude for Rep. Graham Filler’s (R-St Johns) bipartisan help and for “seeing eye to eye and sponsoring one of these bills.”
“It is of the utmost importance to me to continue to pave the way for a better Michigan’s transportation, infrastructure, and mobility in all its capacities,” Rep. Shannon said in the email. “It’s easy to think of Michigan transportation and think of construction, but it is so much more than that.”
Representative Filler shared that the legislation has received bipartisan support in the past, and shared his optimism for it to receive similar support this time.
“I think it is the kind of legislation that will find bipartisan support again because it is good for the attorneys, and for the people that are filing claims, you get 120 days, you know exactly where you stand and it’s also good for the counties because they know exactly where they stand in the courts.”
“I’d rather people spend money on resources investing in the state and in infrastructure rather than litigation,” Rep. Filler added. “No matter what the courts make of this, whether it’s progressive or conservative, we just want clarity for the counties that proclaim this, and we think that’s good for the state of Michigan.”
According to a House Fiscal Analysis of the bills, there would be a minimal fiscal impact to the state.
“The bills would have little or no effect on the liability of county road commissions for injuries caused by failure to maintain highways under road commission jurisdiction to a ‘reasonably safe’ standard,” the report said. “The primary effect of the bills has to do with the notice and process requirements.”
The bills would not have any fiscal impact on the state, such as the Michigan Department of Transportation, according to the report.