Court holds bus driver has governmental immunity; response to child's emergency is not "operation of bus."
Kyle Oostdyk was a special needs student who suffered from a seizure condition. He was being driven to school at Caledonia Schools when he suffered a seizure on the bus, just off school grounds. The bus driver continued on to the school where he sent another child to seek help. First aid was provided by the school nurse after about 7 minutes of hypoxia or anoxia (in any event, insufficient oxygen to the brain) resulting from the position in which Kyle rested after the seizure. Because of his several minutes unable to breathe while his airway was blocked, the child was left in a persistent spastic quadriplegiac and totally dependent state.
Kyie's parents sued the school district, arguing that the bus driver was negligent in responding to their son's seizure and in failing to re-position him when the driver observed that his lips and face were turning blue. The Court held that even if the driver was "negligent," he was immune from liability because the Michigan Supreme Court has recently revised its interpretation of the state's immunity laws. While, under the statute, a government driver is liable for "negligent operation of a motor vehicle," he remains immune from liability for all decisions that aren't directly related to "driving" (i.e., steering, braking, accelerating, etc.). The Republican majority of the Court's narrowing of "operation of a motor vehicle" to include only driving tasks meant that any negligence in the driver's training or decision-making in response to a student's emergency was not actionable.
The Court also held that no evidentiary development could possibly establish that the driver's response was "grossly negligent," rendering summary disposition of that claim appropriate, also.