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Court denies summary disposition as bus driver's negigence could meet standard for overcoming immunity

The mother and next friend of Ashley Jacques sued the Oscoda Area Schools and its bus driver after the driver took a "detour" down a particularly bumpy unimproved road at her student-riders' request.  The bus hit several dips before the students asked the driver to stop because "Ashley was bleeding" and another student had bit his lip.  Both plaintiff and the school system sought summary disposition, which the trial judge denied:  the judge pointed out that there was evidence to support either the claim of gross negligence or the defense of simple negligence and that the case was therefore appropriate for jury decision.

The School District appealed.  The Appellate Court affirmed the lower court.  It pointed out that the bus driver may be able to prove a simple error in judgment in that "knowing passengers will bounce is not the same as knowing the bouncing will create a substantial likelihood of injury."  It also noted, however, that the driver's statements on the bus video surveillance tape suggested that she had ample forewarning that her conduct might cause an injury to occur. Therefore the matter was properly left to the jury to decide.

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