Badly Injured Bicyclist Loses at Michigan Supreme Court

December 20, 2011

An Upper Peninsula quarry is not liable for brain damage and other injuries suffered by a woman who was riding in a popular bike event when she lost control on a rough road, the Michigan Supreme Court said, reversing a lower court decision.

The court’s conservative four-member majority said O-N Minerals can’t be found negligent for the condition of a road that connects to Michigan Highway 134 in Mackinac County, 50 miles northeast of the Mackinac Bridge.

The company uses the road so heavy machinery can get access to limestone mining operations on each side of the highway. It’s made of concrete but also had embedded metal rails. In 2007, Debra McCue lost control and fell off her bike.

In a brief order Friday, the Supreme Court said the lawsuit fails because it doesn’t demonstrate that O-N Minerals had a duty to maintain the road. The Michigan Department of Transportation can’t be sued because McCue, now 60, waived the state’s liability for the Lansing-to-Upper Peninsula race.

The Supreme Court overturned a decision by the appeals court, which said a trial should be held on McCue’s claims. Justice Michael Cavanagh, in dissent, agreed with the appeals court.

O-N Minerals “arguably had a duty to inform the state of Michigan Department of Transportation of the damage apparently caused by (the company’s) unusual use of the highway,” Cavanagh said.

Justices Marilyn Kelly and Diane Hathaway also dissented.

“The indentions next to the metal rails, which ran perpendicular to traffic, were as deep as two inches,” Kelly said.

In a court filing, O-N Materials noted that McCue had agreed to “assume all and every risk” as a condition of riding in the bike tour.

“If MDOT is asleep at the switch as far as road maintenance is concerned, the consequences should not be visited upon the adjacent business,” the company said.

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