Last week, the Michigan Supreme Court issued its opinion in a “highway exception” case (Yono v. MDOT) that originally went to the Court on oral argument on the original application, then, after remand to the Court of Appeals returned to the Court on a full grant of the Michigan Department of Transportation’s application for leave to appeal.
I wrote amicus briefs at each stage of this case for various governmental entities and organizations (1) in support of the original application by MDOT from the Court of Appeals first opinion; (2) a supplemental amicus on the Supreme Court’s grant of oral argument on the application, (3) another amicus in support of MDOT’s application for leave to appeal after remand, and (4) an amicus brief in support of MDOT’s brief on the full calendar case. (MML and MTA Amicus Brief)
In my amicus brief on behalf of the Michigan Municipal League and Michigan Townships Association, I advocated for the position that parallel parking places were not within the improved portion of the highway designed for vehicular travel under the highway exception to governmental immunity.
The Court holds that the “highway exception” does not encompass areas that are designated for parking and non-continuous vehicular travel. This opinion adheres to the interpretive principles applicable to governmental immunity that the exceptions to immunity should be narrowly drawn.
More importantly, it effectively removes a large swath of potential “grey” areas that might otherwise be construed as “highways” within the meaning of the exception, just because automobiles might use these areas from time to time.
This is an important opinion for governmental entities and municipal organizations and insurance companies that underwrite their risk. It removes ambiguity in the application of the “highway exception” to immunity and provides certainty for future considerations of potential liabilities.