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Trial lawyers specializing in personal injury and civil litigation

No immunity for negligent operation of a bus

Through a historical fluke, governmental entities in Michigan and many other states have been given broad immunity for their own negligence.   An exception was created by the Michigan  legislature when the government is operating a motor vehicle.  By statute, if the government owns the vehicle, it is responsible for any injuries that result from its employees' failure to exercise due care.  This simple exclusion has become complicated in recent years, as the Engler majority of the Supreme Court has attempted to defeat a common sense understanding of  what it means to "operate" a motor vehicle.  For example, the Court has held that driving a police cruiser in a high-speed chase, or plowing snow from the highway may not be "operating" the vehicle, because the vehicle isn't "being operated as a motor vehicle" . 

In a recent case, the parent of a young girl filed suit against the City of Flint after the girl was seriously hurt while exiting a city bus.  Insurers for the City  attempted to stretch the City's immunity one step further by claiming that failing to remove ice from the steps of a bus, or parking the bus where riders were forced to disembark on a large mound of snow and ice, is not "operation" of a vehicle.  The Court of Appeals unanimously rejected the insurer's over-reaching effort, and in a welcome display of common sense the Court found the activities of the driver in question to constitute "operating" the bus.  More (essentially vexatious) litigation that was made necessary by a rejection of common sense by the highest court of the state---doing the bidding of the insurance industry and the Chamber of Commerce.

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