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Is SMART bus entitled to govermental immunity after a rear end bus crash?

July 13, 2013 by Steven M. Gursten

Michigan Court of Appeals rules that a jury will decide whether SMART bus is entitled to governmental immunity after rear-ending driver


Today I’d like to discuss a recent Michigan Court of Appeals case that ruled in favor of one of our clients, an injured bus accident victim. Our client, who was rear-ended by a SMART bus as she was waiting in her vehicle at a red light in Roseville, Michigan.

In Joanne M. Sears v. Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation  (aka SMART bus) and Sharon Pointer, the Court of Appeals agreed with  the Macomb County Circuit Court trial judge that Ms. Sears’s lawsuit against SMART bus should not be dismissed under Michigan’s governmental immunity law, which is what the attorneys for SMART bus were arguing.

The lawyers for SMART bus insisted there was absolutely no evidence suggesting its bus driver was negligent in causing the rear-end collision which injured Ms. Sears and, thus, SMART bus was entitled to governmental immunity and the lawsuit should be dismissed.

Not so fast, said the Michigan Court of Appeals:

“[O]n the evidentiary record before the trial court, genuine issues of material fact exist as to the driver’s liability and, consequently, whether defendant was entitled to immunity.”

*    *    *

“With regard to the three pieces of evidence submitted by [SMART bus in support of its claim that its driver was not negligent in causing the rear-end collision], one is irrelevant, one is inadmissible and the final does not support defendant’s position that no genuine issue of material fact exists.”

Our attorneys had argued the SMART bus driver was operating the bus negligently in several ways, including speeding, failing to keep a reasonable lookout for other vehicles on the highway, failing to have proper brakes and applying them in time, and failing to drive with care and caution in accordance with the traffic laws.

Now, thanks to the Court of Appeals’s ruling, our attorneys will be able to make those arguments to a jury on Ms. Sears’s behalf.

Under Michigan law, governmental entities, such as SMART bus, are presumed to be immune from tort liability unless an exception to governmental immunity applies.

In Ms. Sears’s case, the exception at issue is the “motor vehicle” exception, which provides that “[g]overnmental agencies shall be liable for bodily injury … resulting from the negligent operation by any officer, agent, or employee of the governmental agency, of a motor vehicle of which the government agency is owner …” (MCL 691.1405)

Related information:

Michigan bus accident FAQs

Ruling says SMART bus not required to protect passengers in wheelchairs

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