Court strikes down another over-reaching defense arising out of governmental immunity
This week, in Letson v. Pinconning Area Schools, the Court of Appeals struck down another over-reaching defense and appeal raised by a governmental entity. Since it came under Republican domination, the Michigan Supreme Court has overturned about fifty years of law governing injury claims, consistently granting broader immunity and restricting victims' recoveries. It has rejected the rule allowing substantial compliance with notice provisions, for example, and repudiated the former rule requiring a governmental entity alleging inadequate notice to prove actual prejudice resulting from a technical defect.
In response, governmental entities and the insurers representing them have become increasingly aggressive and unreasonable in arguing their alleged immunities from responsibility for negligently-caused injuries. In the past few months, the Supreme Court surprised them by finally finding a defense that went at least one step too far: it rejected the claim that a governmental entity's statutory responsibility for negligently-caused "bodily injury" did not include any liability for emotional or psychological harm or damages. Since the Court had recently ruled that the wrong-doer's responsibility for "bodily injury" included no legal damages payable to a spouse or child of an injured person, governmental units and their insurers had been confident of getting what they wanted.
In Letson, the Pinconning school system was denied summary disposition of a claim brought by a woman who suffered a head injury in a collision with a school bus.