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Lansing, Michigan

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Devon Glass
Devon Glass
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Passengers entering or exiting public transportation can bring injury claims

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Prior to November 16, 2007, the law in Michigan did not allow an injured person to recover damages if they suffered an injury while exiting or entering a public transportation vehicle. However, the Michigan Supreme Court reversed the decision by the Michigan Court of Appeals in Martin v Rapid Inter-Urban Transit P’ship, holding that government immunity could not deny recovery for injuries sustained while boarding or exiting a public transportation vehicle.

Typically,

[a] governmental agency is immune from tort liability if the governmental agency is engaged in the exercise or discharge of a governmental function . . . .

However, there is not absolute immunity for injuries sustained as a result of government negligence. Michigan law also provides that

[g]overnmental 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 . . . .

The Plaintiff in Martin was injured while exiting a public shuttle bus, and thereafter brought a claim for damages as a result of her injuries. The steps on the shuttle bus were slippery and wet, causing Plaintiff to slip and fall. The Defendant claimed that, while her injuries resulted on a motor vehicle, they argued that exiting the bus was not part of the “operation” or said motor vehicle. The Michigan Court of Appeals was somehow persuaded by this theory and determined that Plaintiff was not entitled to recover against the government because it was not engaged in the “operation” of a motor vehicle when she was injured.

In a brief written opinion, the Michigan Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Michigan Court of Appeals. It noted that the loading and unloading of passengers was within the operation of the shuttle bus, and therefore government immunity did not bar Plaintiff from recovering damages as a result of her injuries. This makes sense because it would be illogical to believe the operation of a shuttle bus did not include loading and unloading of passengers. A good decision by the Michigan Supreme Court just in time for the holidays.

For more information on this subject, please refer to the section on Mass Transit Accidents.