The Court of Appeals, by a 2‑1 split decision, has ruled that a student injured in a car accident may not proceed in his case. In Schaub v Seyler, Logan Schaub was waiting at his bus stop when RyAnn Herman, an alternate bus driver for Traverse City Area Public Schools (TCAPS) who had never driven Logan’s route before, drove past the stop. She then turned around and parked the bus on the other side of the road. When Logan attempted to cross the road to get on the bus, he was struck by a vehicle driven by James Seyler, sustaining injuries. Logan sued Herman, Seyler, and TCAPS.
Despite the split decision, all three judges agreed that TCAPS should be dismissed from the case on the basis of governmental immunity. While Logan argued that the motor vehicle exception to governmental immunity applied, the court reasoned that the exception only applies in cases in which the government vehicle makes physical contact with the injured person “in some capacity.” Because the bus did not strike Logan or Seyler’s vehicle (causing Seyler’s vehicle to strike Logan), no physical contact existed. Thus, TCAPS could not be held liable for Logan’s injury.
The majority of the court also ruled that Herman and Seyler could not be held responsible. As to Herman, the majority concluded that she did not force Logan to cross the street, and thus she did not breach any duty when he crossed of his own volition and was injured. With respect to Seyler, the majority noted that the trial court found Logan was more than 50% at fault for the accident, which, under Michigan’s comparative fault regime, barred him from recovering damages. In dissent, Judge Murphy opined that the majority failed to consider the evidence in the light most favorable to Logan, as required. Judge Murphy would have permitted Logan to continue the case against Herman and Seyler.
This case is a big win for TCAPS and governmental bodies. Given the 2‑1 split, the case will likely be appealed, but the consensus among the panel that TCAPS was immune from liability bodes well for the school district in front of the Michigan Supreme Court. Lusk Albertson will watch this case and issue any relevant updates as they develop.