Clinton Township settles lawsuit, shows support against MDEQ

By: Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published October 31, 2013

CLINTON TOWNSHIP — Clinton Township has settled one lawsuit while joining other communities in an ongoing battle against state provisions.

The lawsuit settled was Raymond Hernandez vs. The Township of Clinton, a case that first began in 2011 when Hernandez, the plaintiff, took legal action against the township when he injured himself on the Macomb County Hike and Bike Trail. Hernandez said that a defect in the asphalt-paved trail caused him to fall, and his injuries included three broken ribs and a torn rotator cuff.

The issue was whether the township could be held liable for the injury. Since it occurred on Metropolitan Parkway, it fell under the highway exception and did not make the township immune to being responsible. The other issue in the case related to whether the trail was part of the highway.

According to Township Attorney Jack Dolan, the case went before the Michigan Court of Appeals and then to trial court. Dolan added that it’s unusual for cases like this to take this long.

The township board unanimously approved an $18,000 settlement in Hernandez’s favor, closing the case.

Clinton Township has also been involved in an ongoing saga involving the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ).

“A couple years ago, the MDEQ came out with permits for local units of government, and they significantly increased the burden on local units of government: monitoring storm water discharge, inventory and putting in additional infrastructure,” Dolan said. “Clinton Township, along with many other communities, sought to challenge these processes through an administrative appeals process through the state.”

The MDEQ became more stringent in its enforcing of sewer systems. According to the MDEQ’s website, “Oftentimes, the MDEQ is not aware of the occurrence of SSOs (sanitary state overflows), as they are illegal and often not reported to the MDEQ by the municipalities.  It is the intent of the MDEQ to expand efforts to identify and address these currently unknown SSOs.”

According to Dolan, Clinton Township, along with many other communities, sought to challenge the MDEQ’s processes through an administrative appeals process through the state. Some lawsuits were filed, although none were actually filed by the Clinton Township itself. The township, however, has offered assistance to other cities. The Michigan Supreme Court requires a detailed application and have to decide to hear the case, and then an additional brief is required.

One example is the city of Riverview, which was a lead plaintiff in an appeal that went to the Court of Appeals. Many communities have basically come together in an effort to make their personal burdens more transparent.