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Michigan court: wrongful death suit to proceed against cement firm

When someone dies in a fatal accident, the shock and pain experienced by their loved ones is incomprehensible. In addition to this, survivors deal with financial costs associated with a sudden loss--such as medical bills incurred before death, funeral expenses and lost wages. Sometimes, if the negligent action of another party caused the accident, survivors will file a wrongful death action in order to mitigate these financial effects, or seek a sense of justice, or both.

Currently, such a lawsuit is working its way through the Michigan court system. The case has been filed by the estate of a man who was killed tragically in 2006 when he was nearly beheaded when he rode a scooter into a steel cable that ran right across a freshly paved sidewalk. A wrongful death action was filed against the cement contractor that paved the sidewalk, an energy company that failed to remove the cable, the city of Royal Oak, Michigan, where the accident happened, and two of the city's engineers.

The city and the engineers are no longer involved in the lawsuit, as the Michigan Supreme Court granted them immunity.

The 35-year-old victim was reportedly nearly decapitated when he collided with the cable that came down at an angle from a utility pole alongside the road. Where the cable met the ground, it was embedded into a sidewalk alongside a high school.

The cable had reportedly been in this location since the 1950s. However, it was anchored into the grass until shortly before the accident when the city hired a company to install a sidewalk.

The cement company has asked to be dismissed from the case, arguing that it wanted to leave the area of the walkway near the cable unpaved, so that people would know not to walk there. However, in order to fulfill its contractual obligations to the city, it paved the entire walkway.

In the latest ruling on the case, a Michigan Court of Appeals upheld a lower court's ruling that the case may go on to be heard by a jury. The panel of judges found that the cement company had a common law duty to not create a hazardous condition.

The energy company, which had been called to relocate the wire after a bicyclist ran into it a month before the fatal accident, has not asked to be dismissed from the case.

It appears that there were many chances for these players to prevent this accident from happening, but, unfortunately, it took an absolutely tragic accident for the cable to finally be removed from its hazardous location. While the resolution of this case will not turn back the hands of time, it will hopefully provide a bit of closure for the victim's loved ones.

Source: Daily Tribune, "Cement firm on hook for Royal Oak man's death," Catherine Kavanaugh, Aug. 28, 2012

  • Our law firm helps the loved ones of victims of fatal accidents recover compensation. To learn more about our practice, please visit our Michigan Wrongful Death page.

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