Michigan Court of Appeals Rules “Substantial Compliance” With Statutory Notice Provision Sufficient to Give Governmental Entity Sufficient Notice of Defect Under “Highway Exception” to Governmental Immunity

Although the Court of Appeals does not use the term “substantial compliance” in this case, it rules that there was enough information in the plaintiff’s communications to the City of Detroit to provide the city with proper notice of a defect in a sidewalk within the meaning of MCL 691.1404 (the notice provision concerning the “highway exception” to governmental immunity).

I have written many times on the issue of “strict” as opposed to “substantial” compliance with the notice provision.  I have also contended the jurisdictional prerequisite for a trial court to exercise subject-matter jurisdiction over a suit against the government, which include notice provisions, require strict compliance.

Any effort to collect distended factual information and evidence and use that conglomeration to effectively rule that the governmental entity “should have had” notice, rather than a showing that it actually did have the requisite notice with the degree of precise specificity required by the statute is, in my judgment, an unwarranted exercise of jurisdiction by courts of suits against the government.  Notwithstanding this jurisdictional principle of governmental immunity, which is adhered to in Michigan, the Supreme Court has rejected attempts to make an end run around a plaintiff’s strict compliance with the notice provision.

Yet, trial courts and the Court of Appeals continue to find ways to improvidently exercise jurisdiction over these cases.  The Court’s short opinion is attached here:  Curtis v. City of Detroit

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