The highway exception to the Governmental Immunity Act does not require an injured party to list in her notice of intent all witnesses to her injuries, according to the Michigan Court of Appeals in Milot v. Department of Transportation
, No. 329728. Rather, the injured party need only list the witnesses who observed the occurrence.
In this action, the plaintiff, while driving to work in March 2011, struck an open or dislodged manhole cover, causing her vehicle to roll over. As a result, she suffered physical injury and memory loss. In May 2011, the plaintiff sent the Department of Transportation her notice of intent to sue. However, she did not include the names of her friend or her daughter as witnesses of the accident, reasoning that they merely observed the extent of her injuries after the accident—not the accident itself.
The Department moved for summary disposition on the basis of governmental immunity, asserting that the plaintiff’s notice of intent was defective under MCL 691.1404(1) because she failed to list her friend and daughter as witnesses to the accident. The trial court denied the motion, reasoning that to be a witness under the statute, the individual must have witnessed events related to the actual accident.
On appeal, the Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed, interpreting the plain language of the statute to require an injured party to list in the notice of intent only witnesses who actually observed the accident. The Court found this interpretation to be consistent with the purposes of the notice, which are to provide the government the opportunity to investigate an injured party’s claim while the evidentiary trail is still fresh, and additionally, to timely remedy the defect.