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Arrogant, unsupported request for summary disposition is rejected

Joanne Sears was allegedly hurt when her car was rear-ended by a SMART bus.  Since there is a statute that takes away governmental immunity for negligence in the "operation of a motor vehicle," and another statute that creates a presumption of negligence when you rear-end someone, you'd think Sears' case would likely to go to trial, right?  Not in Michigan's courts.  Defense counsel have become so confident of success before insurance-oriented Justices in Michigan that they expect to achieve summary dismissals even on the flimsiest evidence.

In Sears' case, the attorneys for SMART enjoyed an initial advantage in that the Republican majority of Michigan's Supreme Court, in the 2002 Chandler case, held that "operation" of a motor vehicle doesn't include maintenance of the vehicle:  therefore, if a government vehicle hurts someone because it isn't properly maintained, the government remains immune from liability.  The Chamber of Commerce/insurance-oriented majority held that "operation of a vehicle" means driving---and driving only.  Try using that distinction with the cops if your brakes fail because you haven't maintained them and you want to avoid responsiblility for hurting someone.

The SMART attorneys argued that Sears' case should be dismissed because the Defendant driver told police that her engine revved out of control just at the intersection; that the brakes had failed in that manner previously; and that the driver couldn't avoid striking Sears' car.  Without filing any evidence to directly support this claim, the attorneys argued that they were entitled to immediate judgment against Sears. The trial judge disagreed and SMART appealed. 

The Court of Appeals first noted that since Sears' car was rear-ended, by statute there was a presumption that SMART's vehicle was negligently operated.  The judges  pointed out that in opposition to this presumption, three pieces of evidence were cited by SMART in seeking summary disposition and that "one is irrelevant, one is inadmissible, and the final does not support defendant's position..."  The refusal to grant summary disposition was upheld. 

Only in a state where defense attorneys can be so over-confident would an appeal of this nature even take place. Meanwhile, Sears' case will have been delayed for at least two years by a spurious and unsupported motion for summary disposition and appeal.

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
309 East Front Street
Traverse City, Michigan 49684
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