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Flanagin v. Kalkaska County Road Commission

Court of Appeals of Michigan

May 23, 2017

CARRIE S. FLANAGIN, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
KALKASKA COUNTY ROAD COMMISSION Defendant-Appellant, and ANDREW HENRY SCHLAGEL, Defendant.

         Kalkaska Circuit Court LC No. 14-011619-NI.

          Before: Cavanagh, P.J., and Sawyer and Servitto, JJ.

          Per Curiam.

         The central issue in this case is whether a county road commission is immune from suit for an accident caused by a county snowplow that is operating on the wrong side of the road. We conclude that, while the motor vehicle code does authorize a plow truck to be operated in the opposing traffic lane, doing so may nevertheless present a situation in which the plow truck is being negligently operated and, in such cases, the resulting motor vehicle accident falls outside the scope of governmental immunity.

         Defendant Kalkaska County Road Commission (defendant) appeals from an order of the circuit court denying its motion for summary disposition under MCR 2.116(C)(7) based on governmental immunity. On appeal, defendant argues that it is immune from suit because (1) MCL 257.603 and 257.634 authorizes a snowplow to cross the centerline of a road and (2) even if those statutes are inapplicable, plaintiff failed to establish a genuine issue of material fact that the plow truck was operated negligently and that this accident fell within the motor vehicle exception to governmental immunity, MCL 691.1405. We disagree and affirm. We review de novo the trial court's decision on a motion for summary disposition, Oliver v Smith, 290 Mich.App. 678, 683; 810 N.W.2d 57 (2010), the issue of whether immunity applies, Co Rd Ass'n of Mich. v Governor, 287 Mich.App. 95, 118; 782 N.W.2d 784 (2010), and issues of statutory interpretation, Dressel v Ameribank, 468 Mich. 557, 561; 664 N.W.2d 151 (2003).

         Plaintiff's suit alleges that she was injured when the vehicle she was driving collided with a plow truck operated by defendant Schlagel, who was subsequently dismissed from the suit, in the course of his employment with defendant. Plaintiff alleges that the accident occurred because Schlagel was driving too fast for the conditions and crossed the centerline of the road. Schlagel denies that he crossed the centerline and it is defendant's position that the accident was caused when plaintiff herself crossed the centerline. The issue of which vehicle crossed the centerline is relevant to the second issue on appeal (whether the motor vehicle exception to governmental immunity applies). But, for purposes of resolving the first issue, the applicability and effect of MCL 257.603 and 257.634, we will assume that it was the plow truck that crossed the centerline.

         MCL 257.603 provides as follows:

(1) The provisions of this chapter applicable to the drivers of vehicles upon the highway apply to the drivers of all vehicles owned or operated by the United States, this state, or a county, city, township, village, district, or any other political subdivision of the state, subject to the specific exceptions set forth in this chapter with reference to authorized emergency vehicles.
(2) The driver of an authorized emergency vehicle when responding to an emergency call, but not while returning from an emergency call, or when pursuing or apprehending a person who has violated or is violating the law or is charged with or suspected of violating the law may exercise the privileges set forth in this section, subject to the conditions of this section.
(3) The driver of an authorized emergency vehicle may do any of the following:
(a) Park or stand, irrespective of this act.
(b) Proceed past a red or stop signal or stop sign, but only after slowing down as may be necessary for safe operation.
(c) Exceed the prima facie speed limits so long as he or she does not endanger ...

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