In Lansing, Michigan, Ogden Township taxpayers were turned down by the Michigan Supreme Court in their plea to sue two insurance companies for damages caused by an overweight truck to a public bridge.
The court decision was in favor of the insurance companies, 4-3.
The bridge in dispute is located on Horton Road. In 2007, the township was compelled to spend more than $200,000 to replace this damaged bridge. Construction company trucks allegedly drove over the infrastructure in 2005 with loads which exceeded its 20-ton weight capacity.
The two insurance companies’ attorneys were able to force a shift in their favor for the Lenawee County Road Commission’s lawsuit as a precedent in 2007. Also, under the one-year statute of limitations in Michigan’s no-fault auto insurance law, they claimed that this case was a new suit that was filed too late.
In December 30 last year, the Michigan Supreme Court did not approve a plea by the road commission to go over a review by an Appeals Court decision.
Jeffrey Juby, attorney of the Road commission, said that the verdict was discussed at the commission board meeting. He added that there was “no interest” in requesting the court to overturn its ruling.
The case paved the way for new leadership on the Court to overturn a precedent set by a similar case three years ago. The justices voted 5-2 to accommodate oral arguments as attorneys were asked to argue on the basis of the 2007 precedent.
In the case, Briskey Brothers Construction of Tecumseh and Stan Slusarski Trucking & Backhoe Inc. of Blissfield were sued by the road commission. The basis was an older statute which covers damages to roads and bridges.
The Attorneys for the two insurance companies (State Auto Property & Casualty Insurance Co. and Citizens Insurance Co.) argued that the road commission should have sued under the no-fault law instead. Rather than the truck drivers, this would have named insurance companies as the defendants. This crafty maneuvering made it possible for the attorneys to claim that it would be too late for companies to be sued.
Timothy Pickard, the judge assigned to the case, decided to follow the 2007 Supreme Court precedent. In 2007, the Appeals court panel voted in favor of the insurance companies.
Keith Schroder, an attorney of one of the insurance companies, argued that the judge did not provide any “specific reasoning.” Schroder said that since an old statute was used, the plaintiff delayed presenting appropriate claims which eventually cost them the case.
However, Juby asserted that the defendants resorted to “technical manipulations” to elude justice.