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State loses spurious, aggressive immunity claim involving wage loss damages

Heather Lynn Hannay sued the Department of Transportation after she was struck broadside by a salt truck that blew a stop sign. Her case went to trial before a judge instead of a jury and the judge awarded her future wage loss on a part-time basis as a dental hygienist and services expenses.  The attorneys for the State, emboldened by recent decisions of the Michigan Supreme Court's Republican majority, made the specious argument that it owed nothing for future wage loss or services.  The State argued that under the statute that grants the State immunity for most negligent acts, it should be liable only for "bodily injury" and "property damage" and that these categories should not include lost wages or services.

The Court of Appeals judges who considered the State's appeal of the lower court's decision pointed out that for 48 years since the governmental immunity statute was adopted and interpreted in conjunction with the no fault law, it has been "routine" to interpret "bodily injury" to include future lost wages.  The judges pointed out that wage loss and service expenses are not separate causes of action, but merely items of allowable damages under the category of "bodily injury." 

The Court also rejected both parties' appeal of the wage loss calculation.  The plaintiff was a nursing student when she was injured.  She provided evidence that supported a probability that she would have worked part-time (60% of full-time) as a dental hygienistat a particular dental office.  The Court of Appeals held that it would not "second-guess" the finder of fact on this issue, since there was evidence to support the decision.  Even Kirsten F. Kelly, who virtually never votes in favor of injury victims, concurred in the outcome.

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