Highway Exception To Governmental Immunity

Metro Detroit Personal Injury Lawyer

Generally, the government is immune from tort liability when engaged in a governmental function (see When Can The Government Be Sued?). However, an exception to this general rule exists when the government fails to maintain and repair public highways. MCL 691.1402(1) requires each government agency with jurisdiction over a highway to maintain it in a reasonable state of repair so that it is reasonably safe for public travel. It further entitles anyone who sustains bodily injury or damage to property as a result of a breach of this duty, to recover damages. 

In order to be liable, the governmental agency must have known (or had reason to know) of the defect and been given reasonable time to repair it:  


No governmental agency is liable for injuries or damages caused by defective highways unless the governmental agency knew, or in the exercise of reasonable diligence should have known, of the existence of the defect and had a reasonable time to repair the defect before the injury took place. Knowledge of the defect and time to repair the same shall be conclusively presumed when the defect existed so as to be readily apparent to an ordinarily observant person for a period of 30 days or longer before the injury took place." MCL 691.1403


Under the Michigan statute, a highway is defined as "a public highway, road, or street that is open for public travel. Highway includes a bridge, sidewalk, trailway, crosswalk, or culvert on the highway. Highway does not include an alley, tree, or utility pole." MCL 691.1401(c)

For more information on the Highway Exception and the unique requirements to maintain an action see our blog post on Notice Requirements For Defective City Sidewalks

Metro Detroit Injury Lawyers is a Bloomfield Hills, Michigan law firm practicing personal injury law. Contact us today at 248-430-8929 for a free consultation and evaluation of your case, with no obligation.