The Michigan Court of Appeals has dismissed a case involving a Michigan school district and its bus driver employee. In the unpublished case of Kroll v DeMorrow (No. 341895), a Montague Area Public Schools student was injured at her bus stop when she was struck by a private vehicle. The bus driver, DeMorrow, allegedly failed to turn on her bus’s overhead caution lights as she stopped to pick up the student. While the specific facts were disputed, it was generally agreed that the student either began to cross the road early or the driver of a private vehicle veered off the road and hit the student in her driveway.
As the court noted, the bus driver was entitled to governmental immunity as long as she was not grossly negligent and her gross negligence did not proximately cause the student’s injury. To proximately cause an injury, DeMorrow’s failure to turn on her caution lights would have had to be “the one most immediate, efficient, and direct cause” of the injury. The court reasoned that, even if DeMorrow was grossly negligent by failing to activate the lights, her negligence did not cause the student to cross the road or the driver to veer into the student’s driveway. Therefore, her failure to activate the lights did not cause the student’s injury, and the case was dismissed.
The opinion serves as a quick primer on the state of the law relative to this subject matter. Lusk Albertson recommends review of the opinion to those who would like a refresher on when a school district employee might be liable for gross negligence.