Panel Rules Michigan State University Has Immunity From Woman’s Suit

October 24, 2014

Michigan State University has dodged any legal responsibility for injuries suffered by a high school visitor who fell six floors to the ground after a window collapsed at a residence hall.

Public agencies have a duty to maintain buildings, but the state appeals court said Michigan State has immunity from Alexandra Pew’s lawsuit.

The three-judge panel wasn’t deciding the merits of her claim that the window at Case Hall was weak and dangerous in spring 2012. Instead, it said MSU is off the hook because the dorm wasn’t open to the general public at the hour Pew was injured.

The appeals court said it was applying Michigan legal precedent.

“It’s unjust,” Pew’s attorney, Ven Johnson, said after the opinion was released Wednesday. “It elevates government to a position higher than that of citizens.”

Pew, who was 18 years old at the time, leaned against a window in a lounge and fell six floors, shattering numerous bones and suffering lifelong injuries, Johnson said.

He said MSU employees have acknowledged in depositions that the window had problems.

There was nothing wrong with Pew visiting Case Hall with friends after midnight. Nonetheless, the appeals court said the dorm was restricted to residents and their invited guests between midnight and 6 a.m., the period when she was injured.

“Case Hall was not a public building” during those hours, judges William Whitbeck, Patrick Meter and Michael Riordan wrote.

That’s a key distinction, the court said, preventing Pew from getting around MSU’s immunity.

An email seeking comment was sent to MSU.

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