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Schaub v. Seyler

Supreme Court of Michigan

October 25, 2019

MICHAEL SCHAUB, as Next Friend of LOGAN SCHAUB, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
JAMES ALBERT SEYLER, RYANN ELISE HERMAN, and TRAVERSE CITY AREA PUBLIC SCHOOLS, Defendants-Appellees.

          Grand Traverse CC: 2017-031989-NI

          Bridget M. McCormack, Chief Justice, David F. Viviano, Chief Justice Pro Tem, Stephen J. Markman, Brian K. Zahra, Richard H. Bernstein, Elizabeth T. Clement, Megan K. Cavanagh, Justices

          ORDER

         On order of the Court, the application for leave to appeal the November 15, 2018 judgment of the Court of Appeals is considered, and it is DENIED, because we are not persuaded that the questions presented should be reviewed by this Court.

          Viviano, J. (concurring).

         I concur in the denial order because I believe the Court of Appeals reached the right result under Robinson v Detroit, 462 Mich. 439, 457 (2000) and Helfer v Ctr Line Pub Sch, 477 Mich. 931 (2006). I write separately, however, because, I question whether Robinson and Helfer correctly interpreted MCL 691.1405.

         Plaintiff, Logan Schaub, was injured when he was hit by a motor vehicle while crossing the street to reach his school bus. On the date of the injury, plaintiff was a 14-year-old high school freshman who lived on a county road with a speed limit of 55 m.p.h. He was waiting for the bus at 6:45 a.m., while it was still dark outside. On a typical day, plaintiff did not cross the road to board the bus and, indeed, according to school district rules, plaintiff's road was classified as a "no-cross road." On the day in question, plaintiff's bus was driven by RyAnn Herman, an alternate driver who had never driven plaintiff's route before. When first driving by, Herman missed plaintiff's stop. Then, she turned the bus around and drove 120 feet past plaintiff's stop before pulling off to the opposite side of the road and activating the bus's right turn signal. The bus was partially on the gravel shoulder and partially on the traveled portion of the road. Although Herman turned on the bus's exterior flashing lights for a brief time, she never activated the bus's red lights or stop sign, which would have required traffic to stop. Plaintiff attempted to cross the street to reach the bus, but was hit by a motor vehicle that was passing the school bus from behind. After the accident, Herman said (somewhat inconsistently) that "I had no idea he was gonna cross. I thought that car was gonna go and then he was gonna cross."

         Plaintiff filed suit against Herman, the school district, and the driver of the motor vehicle that hit him. The trial court denied the school district's motion for summary disposition under MCL 691.1405. On appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed, applying Robinson to hold that "an injury does not 'result[] from' the negligent operation of a government-owned vehicle under MCL 691.1405 unless the government-owned vehicle makes direct physical contact with the plaintiff in some capacity." Schaub v Seyler, unpublished per curiam opinion of the Court of Appeals, issued November 15, 2018 (Docket No. 340993), p 7. Therefore, the school district was immune from suit under MCL 691.1405 because "plaintiff has never offered any evidence to suggest that the bus physically contacted him or [the motor] vehicle." Id.[1]

         MCL 691.1405 provides, in pertinent part:

Governmental agencies shall be liable for bodily injury and property damage resulting from the negligent operation by any officer, agent, or employee of the governmental agency, of a motor vehicle of which the governmental agency is owner . . . .

         Thus, for a governmental agency to be liable under the motor vehicle exception to governmental immunity, a plaintiff must prove:

(1) bodily injury or property damage
(2) resulting from
(3) the negligent operation by any governmental officer, ...

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