Michigan Supreme Court rejects appeal in tree trimmer’s death

Associated Press
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Traverse City – A city-owned utility in Traverse City can’t be held responsible for the death of a tree trimmer who had contact with a power line.

The Michigan Supreme Court turned down an appeal Wednesday from Zachary Adams’ family, which means a Court of Appeals decision in favor of the utility will stand.

Adams was employed by a contractor to trim trees for Traverse City Light and Power when he was killed in 2013. His estate filed a lawsuit with several theories of liability.

The utility is an arm of local government, which is generally immune to tort lawsuits. But the estate claimed that an exception under Michigan law applied, arguing that the utility was in business to make money for Traverse City.

The appeals court acknowledged that revenue in recent years had exceeded expenses but said that’s not enough to invoke the exception.

“The primary purpose of defendant’s activities is not pecuniary profit. To find otherwise would be to penalize sound and responsible financial decisions by a municipal utility,” the appeals court said in 2020.

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