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Closing a bus door is "operation of a motor vehicle"

Only in the post-Engler, post-Cliff Taylor Michigan courts would an insurer have the audacity to argue that negligently closing the bus door on a passenger does not constitute "operation of a motor vehicle".  In Michigan, governmental units enjoy immunity from their own liability for many negligent actions.  The Legislature has spelled out exceptions which include negligent maintenance of a public building and negligent operation of a motor vehicle. 

With encouragement from Taylor's "Majority of Four" on the Michigan Supreme Court, insurers removed large swaths of responsibility from governmental units through the restrictive and counter-intuitive definition of the relevant legal terms.  For example, driving a police cruiser during a chase?  Not "operation of a motor vehicle".  Poorly designed and dangerous public building?  Immunity:  the fault has to be in maintaining it.  CMU stadium hazard?  Not a "public building".

Activist judicial pronouncements of this nature have tapered off with Taylor's dismissal from the Supreme Court.  This week, Deb Smith won her appeal against Capital Area Transportation Authority after the Court of Appeals unanimously threw out CATA's argument that closing the bus door on Smith and dragging her down the highway "does not consitute operation of a motor vehicle".  Perhaps an ugly era is passing. 

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
309 East Front Street
Traverse City, Michigan 49684
Toll Free: 1-800-678-1307
Fax: 231-929-7262