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May 19, 2017

COA: Self-sustaining operations of the Blue Water Bridge do not trigger exemption to governmental immunity

The operation of the Blue Water Bridge (“the Bridge”) is not to produce a profit, but rather to operate the bridge on a self-sustaining basis, thus qualifying the Bridge for immunity under Michigan Compiled Laws (MCL), said the Michigan Court of Appeals in Goodhue v. Department of Transportation No. 332467.
 
In April of 2015, Thomas Goodhue, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officer, stepped into a hole in one of the toll booth lanes on the Bridge and injured himself. He filed a claim in October of 2015 against the Department of Transportation asserting that the Bridge was not exempt from government immunity.
 
The Court of Appeals disagreed. It began by interpreting MCL 691.1401, which provides for government tort immunity if the business is “engaged in the exercise of discharge of a government function.” The statue also provides several exceptions to this broad grant of immunity and the Court focused on the exception that requires determining whether the Bridge operated with the purpose of producing pecuniary profit. The Court applied Hyde v. Univ of Mich Bd of Regents which held that an agency may operate on a self-sustaining basis without being subject to this exception. The Court held that the Bridge was operating on a self-sustaining basis and affirmed the application of immunity.

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