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Wayne County loses bid to summarily dismiss question of vehicle ownership

A Wayne County Deputy was sued after he negligently struck a parked car occupied by Michele Wright. The Deputy, Lamont Polk, was following a Detroit Department of Transportation bus in an unmarked Ford Explorer that was apparently on loan from the DDOT.  Wayne County and Polk sought dismissal of the claim:  Polk argued he was guilty of only ordinary negligence, not "gross negligence" necessary to deny him immunity; the County argued that the vehicle was titled in the DDOT so Wayne County was not an "owner" subject to responsibility for ordinary negligence.

The trial court dismissed the claim against Polk but refused to dismiss the claim against the County as an "owner."  It noted that the County could not supplement the factual record after it was removed to the Court of Appeals and that the trial court record did not exclude Wayne County as an "owner" under Michigan law.  The trial court will need to take additional proofs to determine whether the County was an owner of the Explorer.  The court noted that there can be "several owners" of a vehicle, under Michigan law, but that each owner exercised "exclusive use" of the vehicle for a determinable length of time.
Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
309 East Front Street
Traverse City, Michigan 49684
Toll Free: 1-800-678-1307
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