Municipal Corporations-Liability in Tort-Prospective Judicial Abrogation of the Sovereign Immunity Concept

Plaintiff’s decedent was killed by a fall down the elevator shaft of a building owned and maintained by the City of Detroit. Plaintiff alleged that defendant city negligently failed to protect and enclose the shaft, in violation of its own ordinances, and that such failure was the proximate cause of her husband’s death. The city moved to dismiss, claiming that it was engaged in a governmental function and therefore was immune from tort liability. On appeal from an order dismissing the complaint, held, affirmed by an evenly divided court. However, a majority of the court prospectively overruled the judicial doctrine of governmental immunity from ordinary torts. Williams v. City of Detroit, 364 Mich. 231, 111 N.W.2d 1 (1961).