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Defendant severs blind man's finger; not responsible for injury

Raymond Martens sued Jeff Zurkan and the Rochester school system after Zurkan slammed a car door and severed his finger.  Martens claimed that Zurkan was in a hurry and wanted to unload equipment from his vehicle before buses arrived, and failed to take ordinary and reasonable precautions to protect Martens, who is legally blind.  The traumatic loss of his finger is a particular hardship for Martens, since it was used extensively in the braille system to allow Martens to read.

The Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal of Martens' claim because under governmental immunity rules, Zurkan is not responsible for negligence.  Instead, Martens would have to prove "gross negligence" which has been interpreted by some judges to be almost tantamount to intentional misconduct.  Under the facts of Martens' injury, the Court did not think reasonable minds could conclude that Zurkan's negligence rose to the "gross negligence" standard. 

It seems incomprehensible that actions taken for the common good by government actors should be allowed to injure innocent victims and not carry consequences when clear fault is involved.  If we all benefit by a government actor's actions, we should all contribute to cover the expense of an innocent victim's injuries when the government actor makes a mistake.  This form of "risk-sharing" for the common good should be a foundational element of life in an organized society--not an exception to personal responsibility.

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