10 July 2020

For Second Time, Bus Driver and School Found Not Liable for Student Injury

In 2019, we summarized a Michigan Court of Appeals case in which a student was injured at her bus stop when she was struck by a private vehicle.  The case revolved around whether the bus driver and the School District (Montague Area Public Schools) could be held liable under the theory that the bus driver had failed to activate the caution lights on the bus.  The court previously dismissed the case, but the Michigan Supreme Court reversed in January 2020 because there was a factual dispute as to whether the accident would have occurred had the lights been used.

The case again landed before the Court of Appeals, which squarely addressed the issue of governmental immunity.  The court reasoned that the bus driver could not have been “grossly negligent” – and therefore subject to liability – in the incident, because the bus driver had not instructed the student to cross the road (where she was struck by the private vehicle) and did not know that the student had actually started to cross the road.  Additionally, the court held that the School District could not be held vicariously liable for the bus driver’s actions.  The court opined that Michigan government entities may not be held vicariously liable for their employees’ actions unless an exception to government immunity applies.  In this case, the court concluded, none of the exceptions applied.  Consequently, the court again ordered dismissal of the Plaintiff’s claims.

The decision may be accessed here.