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County sued over Weaver House deck collapse

By Audra Gamble/The Holland Sentinel • Jun 19, 2018 at 3:30 PM

Ottawa County is being sued for more than $25,000 after a woman was injured at a county-owned park, according to documents filed recently in Ottawa County Circuit Court. 

The Grand Haven woman, Patricia MacDonald, is suing the county after she sustained “severe and permanently debilitating injuries” when the deck collapsed last June at Weaver House in Pine Bend Park in Port Sheldon Township. The deck collapsed during an event for North Ottawa Community Hospital, while at least 25 people were standing on the deck.

Ottawa County Sheriff Steve Kempker said at the scene of the collapse at least 14 people were injured and two were taken to the hospital.

MacDonald filed the lawsuit against Ottawa County on June 13, two days shy of exactly one year after the deck collapse. In the lawsuit complaint, MacDonald’s attorney wrote she fell when the deck collapsed into a V-shape, injuring her left foot, ankle and her neck.

According to Michigan law, a governmental agency is liable for injuries that take place on public property if the government “failed to remedy the (defective) condition or to take action reasonably necessary to protect the public against the condition.”

Weaver House is 100 years old, but the deck was built in 2005 by Winter-Troutwine Associates, Inc.

A week after the deck collapsed, the county had GMB Architecture and Engineering do an engineering assessment of the incident. GMB determined the lumber material used by Winter-Troutwine for the deck’s structural beams was “the wrong material to use in the outdoor environment of this deck” because it was “not suitable for the absorption of chemicals in the pressure treatment process” used to make wood appropriate for outdoor use. The deck was rebuilt in October 2017.

MacDonald’s lawsuit claims the county should have discovered the “dangerous and defective condition” and warned event invitees of that condition of the deck before anyone was hurt. She is seeking compensation for physical, emotional and psychological injuries sustained from the deck collapse.

MacDonald claims she suffered injuries, physical pain and suffering, mental anguish, embarrassment, past and future medical expenses, permanent scarring, disfigurement and disability and past and future wage loss due to the injuries she sustained during the deck collapse. MacDonald’s husband, James, is also a plaintiff in the lawsuit, as the pair claims MacDonald’s injuries caused a “detriment of their marital relationship.”

Though Doug Van Essen, corporate counsel for Ottawa County, did not immediately return requests for comments about the lawsuit, Van Essen told The Sentinel in January he doesn’t believe the county is liable for any injuries incurred at the Weaver House. Rather, he said Winter-Troutwine Associates is responsible for any claims or lawsuits resulting from the collapse.

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