Bloomfield Hills School District loses bid to narrowly define "bodily injury"
A Bloomfield Hills School District school bus drove under closed railroad gates and was struck by a train approaching at high speed. The train engineer, believing the bus to be occupied by school children, was traumatized by the event and later diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder(PTSD). He filed suit against the District, alleging negligence by the District's driver who attempted to beat the train by driving under the closed gates. Since the School District could not prevail on the issue of "fault", it attempted to weasel out of responsibility by arguing that the train engineer had not suffered a "bodily injury".
The insurance-oriented Michigan judiciary has previously attempted to apply a very restrictive definition to "bodily injury", thereby excluding liability for some victims' injuries. In Wesche v. Mecosta County Road Commission, for example, the activist insurance-oriented majority of the Supreme Court held that no consoritium claim could be pursued by the family of a person killed by a government actor, because the family-litigants had not suffered "bodily injury". (Apparently the rather severe bodily injury suffered by the decedent family member doesn't qualify.)
A majority of the Court of Appeals' panel that heard this case rejected the School District's argument, holding that PTSD may constitute a "bodily injury". The majority noted that Plaintiff's doctors provided testimony documenting the significant physical changes that occur in brain function, chemistry and structure as a result of PTSD. It remanded the case to the trial court for the jury to determine whether this particular individual had suffered a cognizable injury. Judge Hoekstra dissented, arguing that PTSD is not a bodily injury. Certainly the hundreds of soldiers who have returned from repeated postings in the Middle East and who are now diagnosed with PTSD would disagree.