St. Clair County Wins Lawsuit Appeal; Inmate Killed By Tree

PORT HURON, Mich. (AP) — St. Clair County officials have immunity in a lawsuit related to the death of a jail inmate who was struck by a tree while on a work crew.

In 2010, James Dudley had volunteered to clear vegetation from a drain known as the Emmet Drain when a tree 10 feet away fell and killed him. His family sued the St. Clair County drain commissioner and other officials on many grounds, including a failure to provide safety equipment.

But in 2-1 decision, the appeals court ruled against Dudley’s estate, saying there was no evidence of gross negligence.

Judge Douglas Shapiro disagreed. He says a jury should be allowed to sort out whether a lack of hardhats was the fault of a county employee who was later suspended.

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