Programs & Services

Legal Defense Fund Top 25: Case 20

Governmental immunity/liability
Glancy v City of Roseville

440 Mich 867 (1992)

Issue: Governmental immunity – sidewalks

Fred Glancy sued Roseville alleging that he slipped and fell on a defective sidewalk that was nearly one and one-half inches higher than the surrounding sidewalk. The city claimed that it was immune on the basis that the 1964 Michigan Governmental Tort Liability Act (GTLA) had preserved the so-called two-inch rule.

Why did the LDF get involved?
The defective highway exception to governmental immunity under the GTLA requires a governmental agency having jurisdiction over any highway to maintain that highway in reasonable repair. Sidewalks are construed to be a part of the highway in cases involving a municipal defendant.

In 1972, the Michigan Supreme Court abandoned the two-inch rule which basically provided that any alleged condition that is less than two inches in depth would not render a municipality liable for damages related to an accident caused by the condition. In Glancy, the Court of Appeals held that the two-inch rule had not been preserved by the GTLA. The LDF wanted the Supreme Court to adopt a bright line test with respect to whether or not the municipality had maintained the sidewalk in reasonable repair.

What action did the LDF take?
Filed an amicus brief with the Michigan Supreme Court

What was the outcome?
The Michigan Supreme Court refused to find that the two-inch rule had been retained by virtue of language in the GTLA. The Court said that the two-inch rule was a negligence rule rather than a principle of governmental immunity. The court also indicated that adopting the two-inch rule as a bright line test was a matter left to the Legislature.Who prepared the amicus brief?
Marcia L. Howe (Johnson, Rosati, Galica, LaBarge, Aseltyne & Field, P.C.)COMMENT: In 1999, the state Legislature acted upon the challenge by the Michigan Supreme Court. It modified the GTLA by providing that cities, villages, and townships have no duty to repair or maintain and would not be liable for injuries arising from a portion of county highway outside of the improved portion of the highway designed for vehicular travel, including a sidewalk, trailway, crosswalk, or other installation unless, at least 30 days before the injury, the municipality knew or should have known of the existence of a defect and that the defect was the proximate cause of the injury. In addition, the legislation partially restored the two-inch rule by enacting a provision that a defect of less than two inches creates a rebuttable inference that the municipality has maintained the sidewalk in reasonable repair. (MCL 691.1402a)
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