If you’ve been at the courthouse lately, or not even lately — If you been at the courthouse in the last really long time, you’ve noticed that the courthouse steps are busted. Half of them are just falling apart and blocked off. At first I thought the powers that be would get right on it. But nah, they didn’t.
So I started thinking — what were to happen if someone were to fall down the steps and hurt themselves? Is the county liable? Do the barricades they put up protect them legally at all? Let’s answer the questions one at a time.
Yes, Grand Traverse County could be liable if someone trips on those steps. The State of Michigan has a pretty air-tight governmental immunity statute, but there’s an exception for dangerous building conditions. MCL 691.1406 says that a government entity can be liable for injuries that result when they fail to maintain a public building that the public uses. They must have actual notice of the defect. Actual knowledge is presumed after the condition exists for 90 days (I think we’ve passed 90 days and then lapped it.) They obviously have noticed because they put up the barricades.
Finally, the government must have failed to take reasonable actions to protect the public. So that makes the barricades questionable about whether they’re enough to protect the county from liability if someone bites the big one on the broken steps. A jury would have to decide whether the barricades are a reasonable action to protect the public.
I prefer to see the broken courthouse steps as an allegory for what happens inside.