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SMART bus’s outrageous tactics for avoiding accident liability comes to a screeching halt

December 28, 2010 by Steven M. Gursten

Judges finally say ‘Enough is enough’ to bus line’s illogical, form-over-substance strategies for shirking responsibility to Michigan bus accident victims

In an opinion that will come as a welcome change of pace for Michigan bus accident attorneys and the accident victims they represent, the Michigan Court of Appeals has issued an emphatic and long-overdue “smack down” to SMART bus’s seemingly boundless efforts to avoid taking responsibility for the injuries its buses have caused people.

A unanimous, three-judge appellate panel in Williams v. Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation, et al., concluded that a bus accident victim’s lawsuit could proceed because, despite baseless protestations to the contrary by SMART bus, the victim had actually provided the bus line with sufficient legally-required notice of her claim.

Under Michigan law, in order for a bus accident victim to sue a bus line for accident-related personal injuries, the victim must first serve “written notice of any claim” on the bus line within 60 days of the accident that caused the injuries and gave rise to the claim. MCL 124.419.

On numerous occasions, SMART bus — which is an acronym for the bus line known as “Suburban
Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation” — has exploited the “form-over-substance” nature of that notice requirement to dodge its responsibility to the accident victims whom its buses have injured.

And, until the Williams case, it appeared no judge or judges would put a halt to the absurdity of SMART bus’s tactics.

How SMART has dodged responsibility for bus accidents its drivers caused in Michigan

In Nuculovic v. SMART Bus, et al., SMART bus got out of a lawsuit in January 2010 by arguing the bus accident victim had not properly served the bus line with notice of her claim, even though SMART bus knew a great deal about the accident and the victim’s injuries based on the police report, the bus driver’s accident report and the bus driver’s supervisor’s reports — all of which were in SMART bus’s possession.

The bus line’s mind-bending argument that it had not received “legal” notice of the victim’s claim despite the abundance of evidence demonstrating it undeniably had actual notice of the facts comprising the victim’s claim met with similar success in other cases.

In Rose v. SMART Bus, et al. (March 2010), and in Roberts v. SMART Bus, et al. (April 2010), the Court of Appeals attached no significance to the facts that SMART bus had incident reports from its driver and a security company and that the victim gave an account of the accident and his injuries to both the bus driver and to a SMART bus representative during a phone call.

You can read more about SMART bus’s tactics for avoiding its liability to bus-accident victims here:

o Legal loophole lets SMART bus off the hook despite causing serious accident

o SMART bus accident takes another injured person ‘for a ride’

o Michigan bus accident lawyer says accident victims threatened by ‘textualist’ judges’ reading of Michigan law

Thankfully, along came the judges on the Williams case and their willingness to reject yet another credulity-straining ploy by SMART bus to leave another bus accident victim stranded and helpless by the proverbial roadside.

After Yvonne Williams was injured as a SMART bus passenger, she did everything SMART bus demanded of her in terms of providing SMART bus with her side of the story and details about her accident-related injuries.

For instance, she communicated with the SMART bus through “the agent designated by SMART,” and, in a letter to the SMART agent, she explained how SMART bus had caused her injuries, including details about the date, time, location, route number, and first name of the bus driver involved in the accident, as well as the status of her accident-related medical treatment.

Nevertheless, SMART bus still protested that it had not received the legally required notice and, thus, should not have to defend itself against Williams’s lawsuit.

Wisely, the Court of Appeals backed the trial court, which had refused to dismiss the lawsuit: “Williams’ letter … was sufficient to apprise SMART of her belief that she had a personal injury claim against SMART. The trial court did not err in denying SMART’s motion for [dismissal].”

Now that’s what I call a SMART ruling!

– This blog post was written by Steven Gursten and Todd Berg

Steven M. Gursten is recognized as one of the nation’s top experts in serious car and truck accident injury cases and automobile insurance No-Fault litigation. Michigan Auto Law has received the largest reported jury verdict for an automobile accident case in Michigan in six of the past nine years, according to published verdicts and settlements reports.

– Todd Berg is an Illinois attorney. At Michigan Auto Law, he provides analytical, research and writing support to the firm’s auto accident attorneys. Todd was formerly a trial and appellate attorney in Illinois. He was also a legal news reporter and editor with Michigan Lawyers Weekly.

Related information:

Bus accidents in Michigan

Michigan truck rules and regulations (for buses too)

Personal injuries from auto accidents and bus accidents in Michigan

Michigan Auto Law is the largest law firm exclusively handling car accident, truck accident and motorcycle accident cases throughout the state. Call (248) 353-7575 if you’ve been injured in a bus accident, and would like to speak to a bus accident attorney.

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