Inadequately equipped fire engine still immune from liability as not "operation of a motor vehicle."
One of the exceptions to governmental immunity in Michigan relates to the negligent operation of a motor vehicle. The Estate of Ivory R. Ivey attempted to utilize this exclusion in suing the City of Detroit for sending an inadequately equipped fire engine to the scene of a fire where Ivey suffered smoke inhalation. The trial judge rejected the family's claim, based on governmental immunity, and they appealed.
The Court of Appeals noted that the Republican majority on Michigan's Supreme Court has limited the motor vehicle exception to immunity so that it applies only to motor vehicles "used as a motor vehicle." On that basis, the Court has preserved immunity for negligence in the operation of police cars conducting a negligent police chase, for example. Relying on this precedent, the Court of Appeals ruled that the City retained immunity for inadequately equipping the subject fire vehicle because it was being used to transport fire equipment and not "as a motor vehicle."