Court affirms trial judge's holding that State Trooper who made U-turn onto freeway may be guilty of gross negligence and is not entitled to summary disposition.
Oliver Lee Howard was seriously injured when Christopher Pena tried to make a U-turn and travel the wrong way on the Lodge Freeway. Pena ignored numerous traffic signs, signals and common sense in attempting the maneuver, but argued that his conduct didn't evidence gross negligence, and therefore he should be immune from liability. The trial judge disagreed and denied Howard's motion for summary disposition. Pena's insurer appealed.
The Court of Appeals rejected the trooper's appeal, agreeing that even under the very high threshold of negligence necessary to overcome governmental immunity which is currently in vogue, the injured man had raised an issue of fact for the jury. The Court pointed out that while statutory violations of the Motor Vehicle Code are evidence of negligence, these violations are not evidence of the absence of gross negligence. His conduct evidenced "conduct so reckless as to demonstrate a substantial lack of concern for whether injury results" and therefore gross negligence is an issue for the jury.