Notice Requirements Under MCL 224.21
In this unanimous unpublished per curiam decision, the Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s summary disposition order dismissing Plaintiff Christopher LeBlanc’s third-party action against Defendant Washtenaw County Road Commission. On remand from the Supreme Court and per the Supreme Court’s instruction, the Court of Appeals held that the 120-day notice period set forth in the Governmental Tort Liability Act (“GTLA”), MCL 691.1401 et seq—not the 60-day notice period set forth in the County Road Law, MCL 224.1, et seq—applies to negligence actions against county road commissioners.
Christopher LeBlanc was driving on a Washtenaw County road when his vehicle hit a pothole, causing him to lose control, veer off the road, and hit a tree. The crash happened on February 26, 2018, and on June 11, 2018, LeBlanc served presuit notice on the Washtenaw County Road Commission, pursuant to the 120-day notice period provision set forth in the GTLA—MCL 691.1401(1), specifically. The Washtenaw County Road Commission moved for summary disposition, arguing that the applicable notice provision was the 60-day notice provision set forth in the County Road Law—MCL 224.21(3), specifically. The trial court agreed with the Washtenaw County Road Commission, relying on the Court of Appeals’ opinion in Streng v Board of Mackinac Co Rd Comm’rs, 315 Mich App 449 (2016).
The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s summary disposition order, acknowledging that, although the Supreme Court held in Brown v Manisteee Co Rd Comm, 452 Mich 354 (1996) that the 60-day notice requirement set forth in MCL 224.21(3) was unconstitutional, Brown was “ ‘repudiated [in its] entirety’ ” by the Supreme Court in Rowland v Washtenaw Co Rd Comm, 477 Mich 197 (2007). After Rowland’s apparent wholesale repudiation of Brown, then, the Court of Appeals decided Streng, in which it held that the 60-day notice provision in MCL 224.21(3) applied to negligence actions against county road commissioners. Based on this parsing of the case law, the Court of Appeals, in this case, held that the applicable notice provision was that found in MCL 224.21(3).
LeBlanc then applied to the Supreme Court for leave to appeal, and the Supreme Court held the application in abeyance pending its decision in Pearce v Eaton Co Rd Comm, ___ Mich ___ (2021). Ultimately, the Pearce court concluded that Streng was wrongly decided, and that the Brown court’s holding “that the GTLA’s notice provisions control . . . survived this Court’s decision in Rowland.” (The Court did note, however, that “[w]hether Brown correctly decided this question is for this Court to decide. But because it was not raised by the parties here, we save it for another day.”) Thus, this case was remanded back to the Court of Appeals which held that, because LeBlanc served his notice 105 days after the subject crash, his notice was timely under the applicable notice provision—that set forth in the GTLA.
“Accordingly, the Pearce Court very clearly directed that, until the Supreme Court says otherwise, the GTLA’s 120-day notice provision applies to negligence actions against county road commissions. Here, because LeBlanc served his notice 105 days after his accident forming the basis of his claim, his notice was timely under the GTLA’s presuit notice provision. MCL 691.1404(1). Accordingly, we reverse the trial court’s order granting summary disposition in favor of the Road Commission.”