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School system and driver dismissed from lawsuit arising out of student's death

The Court of Appeals recently dismissed a lawsuit filed by the family of Tiara Fisher, after the 15-year old was struck and killed while crossing the street to board a school bus.  The car that struck the girl had sped up to pass the bus, after the bus driver activated her amber flashers in preparing to stop.   The family had sought to hold the bus driver responsible for failing to react to the child's precarious position by activating red flashers and stopping immediately.  It also argued that the school system should be partially responsible for breaking the law by requiring the girl to cross a 3-lane highway to reach her bus stop.

The Court of Appeals judges rejected the notion that the driver was guilty of "gross negligence" by failing to make an abrupt emergency stop in the middle of the road--and rejected the suggestion that the driver was legally responsible for the following driver's inappropriate attempt to pass on the amber flashers.  The Court also pointed out that the bus driver is required, by statute, to activate her amber flashers prior to initiating a stop. 

With regard to the location of the bus stop, the Court noted that the Southfield School system's bus supervisor had filed an affidavit documenting its assignment of the girl to a different bus stop that would not have required her to cross three lanes of traffic unsupervised.  Since this affidavit was unchallenged, there was no evidence before the court to support the claim that the school system had broken the law.  Furthermore, the Court would have held the school system to be immune from negligence in this respect in any event, since rulings by the Engler majority of the Supreme Court have limited governmental responsibility for the negligent operation of a motor vehicle to the basic tasks involved in driving.

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
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Traverse City, Michigan 49684
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