On April 22, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that curbs are part of the highway. This is important to the Michigan complete streets movement as it means local governments can no longer claim governmental immunity when someone is injured on a curb.
In Benton Harbor, Jeanette Sharp was injured when she fell from a crumbling curb. Sharp sued the City of Benton Harbor, on the ground that it had breached a statutory duty to maintain the curb that caused her fall. Benton Harbor moved for summary disposition on the basis of governmental immunity.
The Court of Appeals, however, upholding the Berrien Circuit Court (Sharp v. City of Benton Harbor, COA docket No. 292389), said governmental immunity did not apply.
“Curbs routinely serve as the frames for travel on public roads, and in this sense are integral components of a road,” said Judge Douglas Shapiro, Judge E. Thomas Fitzgerald and Judge Stephen Borrello in the published per curiam opinion.
The court found that the things specifically excluded from the definition of highway in the statute all have one thing in common: they “do not contribute to or assist the public’s ability to travel.” Curbs, the court found, do contribute to travel and so are included within the highway exception to governmental immunity.