Court Holds “Bodily Injury” Damages Include “Pain and Suffering” and “Non-economic Damages” In “Motor Vehicle” Accident Claims Against Government

I previously wrote a short post about this case, but since I authored an amicus curiae brief for Michigan Townships Association, and the counties of Oakland, Wayne and Macomb, I have engaged in a bit more analysis.

The Supreme Court released its long awaited opinion in Hannay v. MDOT and Hunter v. Sisco, on December 19.

The underlying facts in both cases arose from motor vehicle accidents in which government owned vehicles were involved.  In Hannay, the plaintiff was injured when she was involved in an accident with a snowplow owned and operated by the Michigan Department of Transportation.  In Hunter the plaintiff was injured when his vehicle was struck by a dump truck owned and operated by the City of Flint.

Both plaintiffs sued, claiming they suffered bodily injury and economic damages and were entitled to tort damages in excess of the minimum benefits available to all individuals injured by the operation, use or maintenance of a motor vehicle under Michigan’s No-Fault Automobile Insurance Law (the No-Fault Act), Compiled Laws, MCL 500.3101 et seq. However, for those injured by ownership or operation of a government-owned vehicle, the additional layer of the Governmental Tort Liability Act (the GTLA) (Compiled Laws, MCL 691.1401 et seq.) limits a person’s causes of action and recovery of damages to the more narrowly construed confines of the “motor vehicle” exception to governmental immunity.  See MCL 691.1405.  Under this latter provision, a person injured by the negligent operation of a government-owned motor vehicle may only recover “bodily injury” and “property” damages.

The main issue in these cases addressed an apparent conflict in the law from the two separate opinions issued by the Court of Appeals.  In Hunter v. Sisco, the Court of Appeals ruled that a person may not recover noneconomic tort damages that are available to claimants under the No-Fault Act when filing a claim against the government under the motor vehicle exception.  Since that exception only allowed recovery for “bodily injury” and “property” damage, and since the courts have construed the provision narrowly, recoverable damages were limited to those associated only with the physical injury to the person, i.e., medical expense damages.  Thus, “pain and suffering” and “emotional distress” damages that are ordinarily recoverable in a tort action under the No-Fault Act were not available under the GTLA in actions against the government under the motor vehicle exception to immunity.

In Hannay v. MDOT, the Court of Appeals ruled that a person could claim excess tort damages (in that case excess economic benefits damages like wage loss and lost earning potential).  The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s award for lost wages and for lost future potential earnings damages because the plaintiff had claimed that she was prevented from completing her education to become a dental hygienist.

Since both cases were published, and both rulings came to opposite conclusions about the extent and scope of recovery of damages under the motor vehicle exception of the GTLA, there was a conflict in the law.

Applications to appeal to the Supreme Court were filed in both cases.  The Supreme Court initially denied the application in the Hunter case.  It granted the State’s application in the Hannay case, and then subsequently granted a motion for reconsideration in the Hunter case after it became evident that resolution of both cases was necessary to address the fundamental underlying issues.

The Supreme Court’s opinion, joined by all of the Justices, with Justice Cavanagh concurring in the result only, is surprising in many respects.  Although the Supreme Court has for the better part of 40 years narrowly construed the exceptions to governmental immunity to include only those damages clearly identified as available to claimants under the GTLA in actions against the government, this principle of interpretation does not control the Court’s disposition of the result in this case.  Rather, the Court reasons that since the common-law definition of the term “bodily injury” prior to the 1964 passage of the comprehensive GTLA included pain and suffering and noneconomic damages for the claimant, and since the common law had not been explicitly overruled by the Legislature in its passage of the GTLA, the term continued to mean that such damages are recoverable to claimants.

Thus, the “tort damages” available to individual claimants under the No-Fault Act are also available to claimants who can prove such injuries and damages in actions against the government.

The Court comes to this conclusion despite very recent enunciations concerning the prioritization of the Legislature’s primary authority to define the law even in the face of prior judicial interpretations of the law, i.e., common law made by the decisions of the Supreme Court.  Further, the Court has also clearly indicated for decades that the GTLA requires even greater deference to the Legislature because it alone is the expression of the People’s will to be haled into court and answer for claims against the government.  Indeed, the Court has repeatedly stated that private and government actors are treated differently when addressing claims against them.

The Court’s opinion also does not address how the government can ever be held to the same standards and duties of an ordinary civilian under the auspices of the No-Fault Act.  The No-Fault Act provides that all Michigan citizens are responsible to provide primary no-fault benefits without regard to fault.  The GTLA requires a showing of fault, i.e., negligence, against the government in order for a claimant to be able to invoke the jurisdiction of the courts and to be entitled to damages.  Even though the No-Fault Act does provide for “tort damages” when a claimant can prove they suffered a “threshold injury”, i.e., an injury that causes serious impairment of a body function, this does not explain how and why the government must be subject to the same system applicable to other citizens in Michigan.  Another principle that the Supreme Court has adhered to since the beginning of statehood in Michigan, at least until now, is that the immunity of the government is jurisdictional.  Thus, litigation and liability can only be pursued via those means expressly defined by the Legislature as allowing suits against the government.  Otherwise, there is no consent, implicit or otherwise, to subject to the government, i.e., the People, to other liability and “no-fault” schemes under Michigan law.

Although this issue was not directly implicated in these cases, the failure to address it and answer the question in explaining that the government can indeed be held liable in the same parameters of liability and fault as ordinary citizens under the No-Fault Act blemishes an otherwise fairly visible and consistent image in the tapestry of jurisprudence created by the Court when addressing governmental liability in Michigan.

It is unfortunate that this opinion contains this evident erosion of the Court’s prior jurisprudence interpreting the GTLA.  It does not solidly adhere to the Court’s previously consistent themes in addressing governmental immunity cases post-1964 passage of the GTLA.  Because the term “bodily injury” exists in other exceptions to governmental immunity, this opinion will provide an opportunity for those seeking to expand the narrowly construed exceptions to the government’s liability.  It will also lead to additional and more strenuous litigation efforts against the government.  And, it will result in larger payouts by the government for damages claims under the GTLA, whether through settlements or judgments.

On that latter note, the one bright spot in the opinion is that the Court reverses the Court of Appeals affirmation in Hannay of the trial court’s allowance of speculative “future earnings potential” damages.  As mentioned, the Plaintiff claimed entitlement to future earnings as a dental hygienist, even though she never finished her educational certification for that particular job.  The trial court held that but for the motor vehicle accident, the plaintiff would have been accepted into a “dental-hygienist” program, would have graduated from that program, and would have been employed at least 60% of the time at the rate of $28 per hour.  The Court reasoned the damages award was far too speculative.  The plaintiff did not prove by a “preponderance of the evidence” that she would have earned such wages if not for the accident.  “The number of conditions that had to be satisfied before Hannay could have been employed as a dental hygienist indicated that this case involved more than the inherent uncertainty of work-loss claims in general, rendering the award impermissibly contingent and speculative.”   Syllabus, and Slip. Op. at p. 38.

I continue to diligently monitor this and all other cases touching on the government’s liability and exposure under the exceptions to the GTLA.  It is unfortunate that this particular case appears to be a setback in the otherwise strong opinions issued by the Court in the past decade when addressing actions against the government.

My earlier posts about these cases can be found at the following links:

Supreme Court to Address Scope of Damages Available in Actions Against Governmental Entities Under No-Fault Insurance and Governmental Immunity Law

Governmental Liability for Damages Under Motor Vehicle Exception to Immunity to be Addressed by Supreme Court

Michigan Supreme Court to Consider Both Non-economic and Economic Tort Damages Claims Against Government

Supreme Court Amicus Curiae Brief Filed in Support of State’s Appeal in Motor Vehicle Exception Case

I have been directly involved in at least four cases as the government’s appellate attorney (Odom v. Wayne County, Hamed v. Wayne County, Atkins v. SMART Bus, and the Court of Appeals opinions in Gentry v. Wayne County and Truett v. Wayne County), and tangentially involved writing as amicus curiae in many others, which have demonstrated and continued the trend the government and its individual actors should be protected to a great degree to allow the smooth and uninterrupted operation of government affairs in day-to-day life.  I continue to believe that unnecessary litigation and large damages claims are inconsistent with this.  The Michigan Supreme Court’s decisions, which I secured in Odom, Hamed, and Atkins, as well as the Court of Appeals opinions in Gentry and Truett, were instrumental in advancing this overarching theme that should be the focus of those defending actions against the government.

If anyone has questions about any of these opinions, please call the Law Offices of Carson J. Tucker.

Effective appellate representation demands different skills than those required by litigation attorneys.  Mr. Tucker is adept at analyzing the intricacies of each case from an objective and critical perspective.  From reviewing and preparing the lower court record, identifying appealable errors, and developing a strategy to raise issues that will be addressed by appellate courts, Mr. Tucker is capable of handling the most complex appeals from the application stage to oral advocacy before the highest courts.

Mr. Tucker’s research abilities and knowledge of current issues in nearly all major subject-matter areas of the law provides his clients with efficient and immediate assistance with complex and high-exposure cases.

Mr. Tucker is experienced at navigating through all appellate courts to shepherd the appeal in the most expeditious fashion possible so that it can be reviewed and quickly ruled upon.

During the past decade, Mr. Tucker has been responsible for several seminal decisions in workers’ compensation, governmental immunity, employment and labor law, civil rights law and insurance coverage.

Because of his specialized knowledge and focus on appellate law and his recognized expertise, Mr. Tucker has been asked to participate as amicus curiae writing briefs for the Supreme Court or as special counsel to other governmental entities in some of the most significant cases in the Court of Appeals and Supreme Court.

Mr. Tucker presented direct representation to the defendants and prosecuted the entire appeal, including all appellate briefings and oral arguments before the Court of Appeals and Supreme Court in the following cases, among others:

  • Estate of Truett v. Wayne County, Unpublished Opinion of the Michigan Court of Appeals, dated May 6, 2014 (Docket No. 313638), briefed and argued by Carson J. Tucker for Wayne County
  • Atkins v. SMART, 492 Mich. 707 (August 20, 2012), application granted, and briefed and argued by Carson J. Tucker in the Supreme Court
  • Gentry v. Wayne County Deputy Sheriff Daniel Carmona, unpublished opinion of hte Michigan Court of Appeals, dated October 11, 2011 (Docket No. 296580), briefed and argued by Carson J. Tucker in the Court of Appeals
  • Hamed v. Wayne County, 490 Mich. 1 (July 29, 2011), briefed and argued by Carson J. Tucker in the Court of Appeals and Supreme Court
  • Odom v. Wayne County, 482 Mich. 459 (December 30, 2008), application for leave to appeal granted, and briefed and argued by Carson J. Tucker in the Supreme Court

Mr. Tucker has also served as special appellate counsel for governmental entities and organizations in writing amicus curiae briefs in the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals in the following cases, among others:

  • Hannay v MDOT, ___ Mich. ___ (December 19, 2014), application granted, amicus curiae filed for Michigan Townships Association, Macomb County, Oakland County and Wayne County, et al., by Carson J. Tucker
  • Yono v. MDOT, ___ Mich ___ (2014), oral argument on application granted, amicus curiae for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne County filed by Carson J. Tucker in support of the state’s application
  • Ashley, LLC v Pittsfield Twp., 494 Mich 875 (2013), application granted, for Pittsfield Township by Carson J. Tucker
  • Hagerty v. Manistee County Road Commission, 493 Mich 933 (2013), amicus curiae for Michigan Municipal League, et al., by Carson J. Tucker

Mr. Tucker can be reached at +17342183605.

Court Holds “Bodily Injury” Damages Include “Pain and Suffering” and “Non-economic Damages” In “Motor Vehicle” Accident Claims Against Government

In a much awaited opinion, the Michigan Supreme Court has held that a claimant may recover “nonecconomic damages” such as “pain and suffering” and “emotional distress” damages and excess “economic damages” in actions against the government under the “motor vehicle” exception to governmental immunity.

Two lower appellate court cases came to opposite conclusions about whether the term “bodily injury” in the motor vehicle exception, Compiled Laws (MCL) 691.1405, including such excess economic and traditional, tort “noneconomic” damages.

Before this opinion, the Governmental Liability Act (GTLA) had been construed narrowly to the strictest confines of the definition of terminology used in that act.  However, the Court here rules that because the common law jurisprudential definition of the term “bodily injury” had traditionally included these types of damage claims, and because the Legislature never explicitly reined in that definition, even after passage of the 1964 GTLA, the statutory term as used in the “motor vehicle” exception, and, likely in other sections of the GTLA will make such damages available to the claimant in actions against the government.

Read the opinion here:  Hannay-Hunter Opinion Supreme Court

I submitted an amicus curiae brief in the Michigan Supreme Court calendar session on this case for Michigan Townships Association and the counties of Macomb, Oakland and Wayne.  (99705-sc-amicus-curiae-br).

I also participated in a panel discussion about this case at the State Bar Negligence Law Section meeting in September.

Read more extensively about this case, including the lower appellate court opinions in my previous post, here:

http://amicus-curious.com/2014/09/22/supreme-court-to-address-interplay-if-any-between-the-no-fault-act-and-the-governmental-tort-liability-act/

If anyone has questions about this case and its impact, please let me know.

Supreme Court to Address Interplay (If Any) Between the No-Fault Act and the Governmental Tort Liability Act

Last Friday, September 19, 2014, I participated in a panel discussion at the Negligence Law Section breakout at the state bar conference in Grand Rapids to discuss the Michigan Supreme Court’s upcoming (October 8) hearing of oral arguments in the calendar cases of Hunter v. Sisco, et al, and Hannay v. MDOT, the latter in which I submitted an amicus curiae brief for Michigan Townships Association, and the counties of Macomb, Oakland and Wayne (99705.sc.amicus.curiae.br).

Here is the two-paged handout distributed at the session. (Hunter-Hannay Venn Diagram Final.9.17.2014.1226 and Hunter Hannay page 2).

Based on the outcome of that event, there is still much debate about the result in Hunter (no noneconomic damages can be awarded against the government under the motor vehicle exception to governmental immunity, MCL 691.1405, even though such damages are ordinarily available against “civilian” defendants under Michigan’s Automobile Insurance “No-Fault” Act, MCL 500.3135).

Of course, Hannay came to the opposite conclusion, only with respect to “excess” economic (wage loss) and future earning potential, which is why the cases have been consolidated.

Some issues raised at the discussion concern how to quantify or identify “bodily injury” damages.

I believe this would be medical expenses related to the physical injury, only.  However, such “damages”, and liability therefor, are ordinarily borne by the first-party, no-fault carrier, not the third-party tortfeasor under MCL 500.3135.

Thus, how can any liability be imposed against the government when you mesh the outcome of applying the GTLA and the No-Fault Act to motor vehicle accidents in which the government’s negligent operation of a motor vehicle causes injury.  See the Venn Diagram I created (the overlap, if any, is the real sticking point and where the case law and/or the legislation will have to be reconciled, eventually).

One suggestion I have made is that perhaps the first-party, no-fault carrier can bring a subrogation action against the government if the PIP carrier can prove negligence and injury, just as a PIP carrier might seek subrogation under MCL 500.3109 from another carrier that is otherwise liable according to the law.  In my work on worker’s compensation cases, we see this a lot.  The no-fault carrier will seek to implicate the worker’s compensation carrier claiming the injuries incurred in an auto accident arose out of and in the course of employment, and thus, are the primary responsibility of the worker’s compensation carrier. Under the statute, the no-fault carrier steps into the shoes of the plaintiff seeking recovery of the benefits, and thus, the no-fault carrier would have to prove negligence and liability on the part of the government under the motor vehicle exception.  I think it could be argued MCL 500.3109 would work the same way vis-à-vis the government.  Although, this is just a theory.  Hunter / Hannay are not likely to address this latent issue.

Another issue that arose was the indication that even before the 1965 GTLA accidents caused by government owned/operated motor vehicles allowed for recovery of damages that were similar, if not identical in nature to noneconomic damages, i.e., pain and suffering, mental anguish, etc.

Why is the term “bodily injury” in the GTLA now restricted only to physical injury?  My answer would be the strict construction of statutes waiving the government’s immunity forbid court’s from expanding the meaning of terms.  Although, the counter to that is that the legislature adopted the term in the motor-vehicle exception with the “common law” definition allowing for such expanded damages in the first place.  This would be a good argument if not for the fact that we are discussing governmental immunity from liability and suit.  The assumption is only the legislature can waive the government’s immunity, and therefore, if the liability is to be “expanded” it has to come in express language.  The courts can restrict or limit the meaning of the terms in the GTLA exceptions, but they cannot expand the meaning.  This is well-established in Michigan case law.

Another theory I raised in my amicus brief for MTA / Oakland, Wayne, and Macomb counties was whether the government can ever be liable for first-party PIP benefits under the no-fault act when the motor vehicle exception requires a demonstration of “fault” on the part of the government.

This is also not an issue that will be addressed by Hunter / Hannay, but given the jurisdictional nature of government immunity, and the fact the government is immune from liability unless within the explicit legislative exceptions of the GTLA, it is a question that will have to be answered eventually (even thought the government has presumed it is subject to the No-Fault Act for the more than 40 years of the latter’s existence, and of course, continues to participate in the system as both a No-Fault “PIP” carrier (either self-insured, or through an auto insurance carrier (or both))), and as a presumptive third-party tortfeasor.

The question was also raised why, if Hannay came out as a published opinion before Hunter, which it did, why Hunter did not follow Hannay under the “first out” rule.  Although, that matters little if the Supreme Court has consolidated the cases to address the issues.

Finally, as I noted in my presentation, Hunter actually retained the “threshold injury / serious impairment” analysis even though it rules there are no noneconomic damages available under the No-Fault Act.

What does this mean?  Why would the threshold injury analysis even matter if the government is only responsible for “bodily injury”?  Does this mean that the government is only responsible for serious impairment or threshold “bodily injury” and nothing below, or less than that?

I doubt this is what the COA panel in Hunter meant, but it was a curious statement that they made at the end of the opinion.  Perhaps they were trying to reconcile their opinion with the Hardy v. Oakland County case in which the Supreme Court held that a plaintiff suing under the motor vehicle exception, MCL 691.1405, still had to prove threshold injuries under MCL 500.3135 of the No-Fault Act.

It will be interesting to see oral argument in the case on October 8.

Carson J. Tucker has participated in and argued some of the most significant governmental immunity cases in Michigan during the past decade.

Mr. Tucker presented direct representation to the governmental defendants and prosecuted the entire appeal, including all appellate briefings and oral arguments before the Court of Appeals and Supreme Court in the following cases:

  • Estate of Truett v. Wayne County, Unpublished Opinion of the Michigan Court of Appeals, dated May 6, 2014 (Docket No. 313638), briefed and argued by Carson J. Tucker for Wayne County
  • Atkins v. SMART, 492 Mich. 707 (August 20, 2012), application granted, and briefed and argued by Carson J. Tucker in the Supreme Court
  • Gentry v. Wayne County Deputy Sheriff Daniel Carmona, unpublished opinion of hte Michigan Court of Appeals, dated October 11, 2011 (Docket No. 296580), briefed and argued by Carson J. Tucker in the Court of Appeals
  • Hamed v. Wayne County, 490 Mich. 1 (July 29, 2011), briefed and argued by Carson J. Tucker in the Court of Appeals and Supreme Court
  • Odom v. Wayne County, 482 Mich. 459 (December 30, 2008), application for leave to appeal granted, and briefed and argued by Carson J. Tucker in the Supreme Court

In addition, Mr. Tucker has provided direct support to governmental entities in filing “friend of the court”, i.e., amicus curiae briefs in support of the governmental defendants in the following cases:

  • Yono v. MDOT, ___ Mich. App. ___ (2014), after remand order, amicus curiae brief filed for Michigan Municipal League and Michigan Townships Association on June 16, 2014, after remand by Carson J. Tucker
  • State Farm v. MMRMA, amicus curiae in Supreme Court for Oakland County, Wayne County, Macomb County, and Wayne County in support of MMRMA’s application, by Carson J. Tucker
  • Hannay v MDOT, ___ Mich ___ (2014), application granted and consolidated with Hunter v. Sisco, amicus curiae filed for Michigan Townships Association, Macomb County, Oakland County and Wayne County, et al., by Carson J. Tucker
  • Hagerty v Manistee, 493 Mich 933 (2013), amicus curiae in Michigan Supreme Court for Michigan Municipal League, et al., by Carson J. Tucker

Effective appellate representation demands different skills than those required by litigation attorneys.  Appellate attorneys are adept at analyzing the intricacies of each case from an objective and critical perspective.  From reviewing and preparing the lower court record, identifying errors for appeal, and developing a strategy to raise those issues that will be addressed by appellate courts, appellate attorneys are capable of handling the most complex appeals from the application stage to oral advocacy before the highest courts.  Our research abilities and knowledge of current issues in nearly all major subject-matter areas of the law provide our clients with efficient and immediate assistance with complex and high-exposure cases.

We are also experienced at navigating through all appellate courts to shepherd the appeal in the most expeditious fashion possible so that it can be reviewed and quickly ruled upon.

Below are some of the recent significant cases prosecuted by the Appeals and Legal Research Group.

  • Omian v. Chrysler, LLC, Michigan Court of Appeals Docket No. 310743, remanded by Supreme Court as on leave granted, Supreme Court No. 146908, oral argument presented July 16, 2014 by Carson J. Tucker for Chrsyler, LLC
  • Moore v. Nolff’s Construction and Travelers Ins., Michigan Court of Appeals Docket No. 313478 and 313440 (consolidated), application and cross-application granted and oral argument in Court of Appeals presented July 2014 by Carson J. Tucker for Nolff’s Construction and Travelers Insurance
  • Arbuckle v. GM, Michigan Court of Appeals Docket No. 310611, oral argument in Court of Appeals presented May 2014 by Carson J. Tucker for GM
  • Yono v. MDOT, ___ Mich. App. ___ (201_), amicus curiae brief filed for Michigan Municipal League and Michigan Townships Association on June 16, 2014, after remand by Carson J. Tucker
  • Estate of Truett v. Wayne County, Unpublished Opinion of the Michigan Court of Appeals, dated May 6, 2014 (Docket No. 313638), briefed and argued by Carson J. Tucker for Wayne County
  • Omian v. Chrysler Group, LLC, 495 Mich. 859 (2013), application filed by Carson J. Tucker, Supreme Court remand to Court of Appeals on leave granted, oral argument to be held in July 2014
  • Ghanam v. John Does, 303 Mich. App. 522 (2013), application to appeal filed in Supreme Court by Carson J. Tucker
  • State Farm v. MMRMA, ___ Mich App ___ (2013), amicus curiae for Oakland County in support of MMRMA application, by Carson J. Tucker
  • Hannay v MDOT, ___ Mich ___ 201_), application granted, amicus curiae filed for Michigan Townships Association, Macomb County, Oakland County and Wayne County, et al., by Carson J. Tucker
  • Yono v. MDOT, ___ Mich ___ (201_), oral argument on application granted, amicus curiae for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne County filed by Carson J. Tucker in support of the state’s application
  • Huddleston v. Trinity Health, et al., 495 Mich. 976 (2014), oral argument on application granted, amicus curiae with Lawrence Garcia, Esq., for MDTC
  • Ashley, LLC v Pittsfield Twp., 494 Mich 875 (2013), application granted, for Pittsfield Township by Carson J. Tucker (resolved by settlement)
  • Bailey v. Schaaf, ___ Mich ___ (2013), amicus curiae for MDTC by Carson J. Tucker
  • Atkins v. SMART, 492 Mich 707 (2012), oral argument on application, Court of Appeals case reversed by opinion, Carson J. Tucker
  • Hagerty v Manistee, 493 Mich 933 (2013), amicus curiae for Michigan Municipal League, et al., by Carson J. Tucker
  • McMurtrie v Eaton Corp, 490 Mich 976 (2011)
  • Findley v DaimlerChrysler Corp., 490 Mich 928 (2011)
  • Brewer v. AD.Transport Express, Inc, 486 Mich 50 (2010)
  • Stokes v Chrysler, 481 Mich 266 (2008)
  • Brackett v Focus Hope, Inc, 482 Mich 269 (2008)
  • Rakestraw v Gen Dynamics, 469 Mich 220 (2003)

Supreme Court Poised to Address Damages Claims Against Government for Negligent Operation of Motor Vehicles

As I mentioned in a previous post, the Michigan Supreme Court issued a reconsideration and Grant Order, and a Consolidation Order, with respect to the Court of Appeals’ decisions in Hunter v. Sisco, et al. and Hannay v. MDOT cases and will consider them together as calendar cases in the fall.

This is turning out to be a significant case both for no-fault insurers, as well as for governmental entities.

The question to be addressed in each of these cases is whether a plaintiff can recover damages available under the No-Fault Automobile Insurance Act, MCL 500.3101 et seq. (non-economic tort damages (Hunter) and excess economic benefits damages (wage loss and future earning potential) (Hannay), when the motor vehicle exception to governmental immunity in the Governmental Tort Liability Act (GTLA), MCL 691.1405, limits damages available to a plaintiff injured by the negligent operation of a government-owned motor vehicle to “bodily injury” and “property” damages.  I do not believe the government has consented by express legislation to submit itself to the provisions of the No-Fault Act, notwithstanding the Court’s previous, but cursory, conclusion in Hardy v. Oakland County, 461 Mich. 561  (2000), that a claimant suing the government under the motor vehicle exception still had to prove a “threshold” injury under the no-fault act to recover damages.  Indeed, the “threshold” injury requirement only avails the plaintiff of those noneconomic benefits damages that the COA panel in Hunter said could not be awarded against the government.

The implicit reading from Hardy and some other prior cases (e.g., Trent v. SMART, 252 Mich. App. 247 (2002), is that since the government “owns” and “operates” motor vehicles, and is therefore considered a registrant of those motor vehicles, it too must participate in the no-fault automobile insurance system.

My strong belief is that if the government is going to subject itself to a system of liability that imposes damages without regard to fault (first party bodily injury damages), and excess economic benefits damages and noneconomic damages that can be awarded against an ordinary (non-governmental) tortfeasor where fault, i.e., negligence, is proved (damages in excess of “bodily injury” damages) that must come via an express statement of an exception to the government’s broad immunity, and through the GTLA.  In Estate of Bradley, 494 Mich. 367 (2013), a case from last term, the Court unequivocally stated if a claimant seeks to impose any “tort liability” against the government, that liability can only be sought to be imposed under the exceptions in the GTLA.

As it stands, I believe the case of Wesche v. Mecosta County Rd Comm’n, 480 Mich. 75 (2008) provides clear guidance, if not precedent, for the proposition that damages awardable against the government must be those, and only those, expressly allowed by the motor vehicle exception, i.e., “bodily injury” and “property” damages.  Indeed, there is a statement in Wesche, which I quote at pages 25 and 26 of the amicus curiae brief I filed in the Hannay case (99705-sc-amicus-curiae-br), in which the Court appears to have foreclosed the future assertion that the government would be liable for the noneconomic damages at issue in Hunter and excess economic benefits damages at issue in Hannay.

Of course, the conclusion should be the same if one asserts a right to statutory damages for “first-party no-fault benefits” against the government under the No-Fault Act, which are automatically payable where injury arises from the operation, maintenance, use or ownership of a motor vehicle without regard to fault, i.e., without regard to negligence.  How can the government be liable for such damages when it has only expressly consented to waive immunity for “bodily injury” damages caused by negligence as provided in the motor vehicle exception (and perhaps for “gross negligence” under the proper proofs as provided in MCL 691.1407) of the GTLA?

Granted, neither Hunter or Hannay address this issue, but the end consequence of the outcome will have to reconcile how the government can be said to be a participant in a liability scheme that imposes liability for bodily injury damages without regard to fault.  Perhaps this is an issue for another day.  I did mention the apparent conundrum in my amicus brief in Hannay.

For more than a century, Lacey & Jones has distinguished itself from other law firms by maintaining a robust Appeals and Legal Research Group.  Effective appellate representation demands different skills than those required by litigation attorneys.  Our appellate attorneys are adept at analyzing the intricacies of each case from an objective and critical perspective.  From reviewing and preparing the lower court record, identifying appealable errors, and developing a strategy to raise issues that will be addressed by appellate courts, our seasoned appellate team is capable of handling the most complex appeals from the application stage to oral advocacy before the highest courts.  Our research abilities and knowledge of current issues in nearly all major subject-matter areas of the law provide our clients with efficient and immediate assistance with complex and high-exposure cases.   We are experienced at navigating through all appellate courts to shepherd the appeal in the most expeditious fashion possible so that it can be reviewed and quickly ruled upon.

During the last three decades alone, the Appeals and Legal Research Group at Lacey & Jones has been responsible for over 150 published decisions, including seminal decisions in workers’ compensation, governmental immunity, employment and labor law, civil rights law and insurance coverage.  Because of its specialized knowledge and focus on appellate law and its recognized expertise, the Appeals and Legal Research Group at Lacey & Jones has been asked to participate as amicus curiae writing briefs for the Supreme Court or as special counsel to the Michigan Attorney General and other governmental entities in some of the most significant cases in the Court of Appeals and Supreme Court.   Below are some of the recent significant cases in which Lacey & Jones, LLP’s Appeals and Legal Research Group has participated.

  • Yono v. MDOT, ___ Mich. App. ___ (201_), amicus curiae brief to be filed after remand for Michigan Municipal League, et al., by Carson J. Tucker
  • Omian v. Chrysler Group, LLC, 495 Mich. 859 (2013), application filed by Carson J. Tucker, Supreme Court remand to Court of Appeals on leave granted
  • Ghanam v. John Does, 303 Mich. App. 522 (2013), application to appeal filed in Supreme Court by Carson J. Tucker
  • State Farm v. MMRMA, ___ Mich App ___ (2013), amicus curiae for Oakland County in support of MMRMA application, by Carson J. Tucker
  • Hannay v MDOT, ___ Mich ___ 201_), application granted, amicus curiae filed for Michigan Townships Association, Macomb County, Oakland County and Wayne County, et al., by Carson J. Tucker
  • Yono v. MDOT, ___ Mich ___ (201_), oral argument on application granted, amicus curiae for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne County filed by Carson J. Tucker in support of the state’s application
  • Huddleston v. Trinity Health, et al., 495 Mich. 976 (2014), oral argument on application granted, amicus curiae with Lawrence Garcia, Esq., for MDTC
  • Ashley, LLC v Pittsfield Twp., 494 Mich 875 (2013), application granted, for Pittsfield Township by Carson J. Tucker (resolved by settlement)
  • Bailey v. Schaaf, ___ Mich ___ (2013), amicus curiae for MDTC by Carson J. Tucker
  • Atkins v. SMART, 492 Mich 707 (2012), oral argument on application, Court of Appeals case reversed by opinion, Carson J. Tucker
  • Hagerty v Manistee, 493 Mich 933 (2013), amicus curiae for Michigan Municipal League, et al., by Carson J. Tucker
  • McMurtrie v Eaton Corp, 490 Mich 976 (2011)
  • Findley v DaimlerChrysler Corp., 490 Mich 928 (2011)
  • Brewer v. AD.Transport Express, Inc, 486 Mich 50 (2010)
  • Stokes v Chrysler, 481 Mich 266 (2008)
  • Brackett v Focus Hope, Inc, 482 Mich 269 (2008)
  • Rakestraw v Gen Dynamics, 469 Mich 220 (2003)

Supreme Court to Consider Both “Noneconomic” and “Economic Benefits” Damages Cases Against Governmental Entities

As I had predicted in earlier posts (see below), and suggested in my amicus curiae brief to the Supreme Court in Hannay v. MDOT, Supreme Court Docket No. 146763, yesterday, the Michigan Supreme Court issued an order granting reconsideration of the application filed in Hunter v. Sisco, Supreme Court No. 147335, ordering the parties to address whether non-economic tort damages can be awarded against the government under the motor vehicle exception to governmental immunity(Hunter.Grant.Reconsideration.Order).

The Court simultaneously adjourned oral argument in Hannay to place both cases on the oral argument calendar together. (Hannay.Adjournment.Order).

The Governmental Tort Liability Act (GTLA) allows a claimant to recover for “bodily injury” and “property” damages, only, for injuries received as the result of the negligent operation of a government-owned motor vehicle. The No-Fault Act allows a motorist injured in an automobile accident to recover economic and non-economic damages under certain circumstances.  The Court of Appeals in Hannay ruled the government was required to pay these other types of damages.  The Court of Appeals in Hunter ruled the government was not liable to pay such damages under the No-Fault Act.

Lacey & Jones, LLP’s Appeals and Legal Research Group submitted an amicus curiae brief on behalf of the Michigan Townships Association, Macomb County, Oakland County and Wayne County in HannaySupreme Court Amicus Brief for MTA, Oakland, Wayne and Macomb

The outcome is likely to affect both No-Fault insurers as well as governmental entities in their future liability and risk apportionment.  There are substantial implications involving the costs to the government of continuing to bear the burden of damages claims and liability that it should not be held responsible for under the motor vehicle exception.  However, there are also implications to other No-Fault insurance carriers who participate in the apportionment of tort liability under the No-Fault Act.

My previous writings about this current issue are posted here:

Supreme Court to Consider Scope of Government’s Liability for Automobile Accident Damages Claims

Hunter v. Sisco – Court of Appeals Rules Government Not Liable for Noneconomic Damages Claims

Amicus Curiae Brief for MTA, Oakland, Wayne and Macomb Counties Weighing in On Scope of Government’s Liability Under No-Fault Act and Motor Vehicle Exception to Immunity

Feel free to call Carson J. Tucker, Chair of the Appeals and Legal Research Group at Lacey & Jones, LLP at (248) 283-0763 if you have any questions about any of these cases.  Mr. Tucker regularly participates in cases before the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals on issues touching many subject-matter areas of civil litigation, including governmental immunity.

Throughout its storied history, Lacey & Jones has distinguished itself from other law firms by maintaining a robust Appeals and Legal Research Group.  Effective appellate representation demands different skills than those required by litigation attorneys.  Our appellate attorneys are adept at analyzing the intricacies of each case from an objective and critical perspective.  From reviewing and preparing the lower court record, identifying appealable errors, and developing a strategy to raise issues that will be addressed by appellate courts, our seasoned appellate team is capable of handling the most complex appeals from the application stage to oral advocacy before the highest courts.  Our research abilities and knowledge of current issues in nearly all major subject-matter areas of the law provide our clients with efficient and immediate assistance with complex and high-exposure cases.   We are experienced at navigating through the Michigan Court of Appeals and Supreme Court to shepherd the appeal in the most expeditious fashion possible so that it can be reviewed and quickly ruled upon.  During the last three decades alone, the Appeals and Legal Research Group at Lacey & Jones has been responsible for over 150 published decisions in the Michigan Court of Appeals and Supreme Court, including seminal decisions in workers’ compensation, governmental immunity, employment and labor law, civil rights law and insurance coverage.  Because of its specialized knowledge and focus on appellate law and its recognized expertise, the Appeals and Legal Research Group at Lacey & Jones has been asked to participate as amicus curiae writing briefs for the Supreme Court or as special counsel to the Michigan Attorney General and other governmental entities in some of the most significant cases in the Court of Appeals and Supreme Court.   Below are some of the recent significant cases in which Lacey & Jones, LLP’s Appeals and Legal Research Group has participated.

  • State Farm v. MMRMA, ___ Mich App ___ (2013), amicus curiae for Oakland County in support of MMRMA application, by Carson J. Tucker
  • Hannay v MDOT, ___ Mich ___ 201_), application granted, amicus curiae to be filed for MTA, et al., by Carson J. Tucker
  • Yono v. MDOT, ___ Mich ___ (201_), oral argument on application granted, amicus curiae for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne County filed by Carson J. Tucker in support of the state’s application
  • Huddleston v. Trinity Health, et al., ___ Mich ___ (201_), oral argument on application granted, amicus curiae with Lawrence Garcia, Esq., for MDTC
  • Ashley, LLC v Pittsfield Twp., 494 Mich 875 (2013), application granted, for Pittsfield Township by Carson J. Tucker (resolved by settlement)
  • Bailey v. Schaaf, ___ Mich ___ (2013), amicus curiae for MDTC by Carson J. Tucker
  • Atkins v. SMART, 492 Mich 707 (2012), oral argument on application, Court of Appeals case reversed by opinion, Carson J. Tucker
  • Hagerty v Manistee, 493 Mich 933 (2013), amicus curiae for Michigan Municipal League, et al., by Carson J. Tucker
  • McMurtrie v Eaton Corp, 490 Mich 976 (2011)
  • Findley v DaimlerChrysler Corp., 490 Mich 928 (2011)
  • Brewer v. AD.Transport Express, Inc, 486 Mich 50 (2010)
  • Stokes v Chrysler, 481 Mich 266 (2008)
  • Brackett v Focus Hope, Inc, 482 Mich 269 (2008)
  • Rakestraw v Gen Dynamics, 469 Mich 220 (2003)
  • Sington v Chrysler Corp., (2002)

Other appeal cases Carson Tucker has handled include

  • Hamed v. Wayne County, et al., 490 Mich. 1 (2011), reversing Court of Appeals published opinion after being briefed and argued by Carson J. Tucker on behalf of Wayne County
  • Odom v. Wayne County, et al., 482 Mich. 459 (2008), reversing Court of Appeals after being briefed and argued by Carson J. Tucker on behalf of Wayne County and Wayne County Sheriff and Deputies
  • Michigan Department of Transportation v Employers Mutual Casualty Co, et al., 481Mich. 862 (2008), reversing Court of Appeals after being briefed and argued on application by Carson J. Tucker for Trucking Company and Insurer
  • Nuculovic v. Hill and SMART, 287 Mich. App. 58 (2010), briefed by Carson J. Tucker for SMART
  • Molnar v. Amy Allen, Oakland County Care House, et al, 359 Fed. Appx. 623 (6th Cir. 2009), affirming district court’s judgment in favor of client represented by Carson J. Tucker
  • Molnar v. Amy Allen, Oakland County Care House, et al., Case No. 09-1536 (2009), successful defense of application to United States Supreme Court by Carson J. Tucker
  • Wetherill v. McHugh, et al., Case No. 10-638 (2011), co-draft response on behalf of South Dakota National Guard to petition for appeal to United States Supreme Court, cert denied by Supreme Court.

 

Supreme Court to Consider “Scope” of Government’s Liability Under Motor Vehicle Exception and No-Fault Insurance Act

Yesterday, I filed an amicus curiae brief on behalf of the Michigan Townships Association, Oakland County, Macomb County, and Wayne County to challenge the Court of Appeals’ decision in Hannay v. Michigan Department of Transportation.

There the Court of Appeals ruled that “bodily injury” damages available against the government for injuries arising from the negligent operation of a government-owned vehicle included excess economic loss benefits (wage loss) and potential future earnings damages.  The “motor vehicle exception” to the government’s suit immunity provides that the government may be liable for “bodily injury” and “property” damages, only.  MCL 691.1405.

Michigan’s No-Fault Act provides that those injured as a result of the negligent operation, maintenance, use or ownership of a motor vehicle are entitled to tort damages in the form of excess economic benefits, potential future earnings, noneconomic damages, among others.  These “types” of damages are sometimes called “third party benefits”.  On the other hand, “first party” benefits, such as medical expenses for bodily injury, certain economic benefits subject to a statutory cap, replacement services, and attendant care services are generally paid by the insurer of the injured party. 

The issue in this case is whether the government, whose liability is ostensibly restricted to “bodily injury” damages only, may also be held liable for these other types of damages that are available only under and through the provisions of the No-Fault Act.  This issue is of great significance to the economic well-being of the government.  It will also be an important case in light of other cases in the Court of Appeals which have held that noneconomic damages, such as pain and suffering, negligent infliction of emotional distress, etc., are not awardable as against the government, even though a claimant might be able to seek such damages from a third-party tortfeasor that is not a government actor under the No-Fault Act.  I have written previously about these cases, Hunter v. Sisco et al. and Ex rel Hodges v. City of Dearborn, as well as the one under consideration.  By the way, a motion for reconsideration is still pending in the Supreme Court in the Hunter case, which I suspect will be dealt with after the Court issues an opinion in this case.

Read the amicus brief here:  99705 sc amicus curiae br

The previous posts are here:

Supreme Court Grants to Consider Scope of Government’s Liability Under Motor Vehicle Exception to Immunity

Hunter v. Sisco

Court of Appeals Rules Plaintiff Not Entitled to Noneconomic Damages Against Government Under Motor Vehicle Exception

Feel free to call Carson J. Tucker, Chair of the Appeals and Legal Research Group at Lacey & Jones, LLP at (248) 283-0763 if you have any questions about any of these cases.  Mr. Tucker regularly participates in cases before the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals on issues touching many subject-matter areas of civil litigation, including governmental immunity.

Throughout its storied history, Lacey & Jones has distinguished itself from other law firms by maintaining a robust Appeals and Legal Research Group.  Effective appellate representation demands different skills than those required by litigation attorneys.  Our appellate attorneys are adept at analyzing the intricacies of each case from an objective and critical perspective.  From reviewing and preparing the lower court record, identifying appealable errors, and developing a strategy to raise issues that will be addressed by appellate courts, our seasoned appellate team is capable of handling the most complex appeals from the application stage to oral advocacy before the highest courts.  Our research abilities and knowledge of current issues in nearly all major subject-matter areas of the law provide our clients with efficient and immediate assistance with complex and high-exposure cases.   We are experienced at navigating through the Michigan Court of Appeals and Supreme Court to shepherd the appeal in the most expeditious fashion possible so that it can be reviewed and quickly ruled upon.  During the last three decades alone, the Appeals and Legal Research Group at Lacey & Jones has been responsible for over 150 published decisions in the Michigan Court of Appeals and Supreme Court, including seminal decisions in workers’ compensation, governmental immunity, employment and labor law, civil rights law and insurance coverage.  Because of its specialized knowledge and focus on appellate law and its recognized expertise, the Appeals and Legal Research Group at Lacey & Jones has been asked to participate as amicus curiae writing briefs for the Supreme Court or as special counsel to the Michigan Attorney General and other governmental entities in some of the most significant cases in the Court of Appeals and Supreme Court.   Below are some of the recent significant cases in which Lacey & Jones, LLP’s Appeals and Legal Research Group has participated.

  • State Farm v. MMRMA, ___ Mich App ___ (2013), amicus curiae for Oakland County in support of MMRMA application, by Carson J. Tucker
  • Hannay v MDOT, ___ Mich ___ 201_), application granted, amicus curiae to be filed for MTA, et al., by Carson J. Tucker
  • Yono v. MDOT, ___ Mich ___ (201_), oral argument on application granted, amicus curiae for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne County filed by Carson J. Tucker in support of the state’s application
  • Huddleston v. Trinity Health, et al., ___ Mich ___ (201_), oral argument on application granted, amicus curiae with Lawrence Garcia, Esq., for MDTC
  • Ashley, LLC v Pittsfield Twp., 494 Mich 875 (2013), application granted, for Pittsfield Township by Carson J. Tucker (resolved by settlement)
  • Bailey v. Schaaf, ___ Mich ___ (2013), amicus curiae for MDTC by Carson J. Tucker
  • Atkins v. SMART, 492 Mich 707 (2012), oral argument on application, Court of Appeals case reversed by opinion, Carson J. Tucker
  • Hagerty v Manistee, 493 Mich 933 (2013), amicus curiae for Michigan Municipal League, et al., by Carson J. Tucker
  • McMurtrie v Eaton Corp, 490 Mich 976 (2011)
  • Findley v DaimlerChrysler Corp., 490 Mich 928 (2011)
  • Brewer v. AD.Transport Express, Inc, 486 Mich 50 (2010)
  • Stokes v Chrysler, 481 Mich 266 (2008)
  • Brackett v Focus Hope, Inc, 482 Mich 269 (2008)
  • Rakestraw v Gen Dynamics, 469 Mich 220 (2003)
  • Sington v Chrysler Corp., (2002)

Other appeal cases Carson Tucker has handled include

  • Hamed v. Wayne County, et al., 490 Mich. 1 (2011), reversing Court of Appeals published opinion after being briefed and argued by Carson J. Tucker on behalf of Wayne County
  • Odom v. Wayne County, et al., 482 Mich. 459 (2008), reversing Court of Appeals after being briefed and argued by Carson J. Tucker on behalf of Wayne County and Wayne County Sheriff and Deputies
  • Michigan Department of Transportation v Employers Mutual Casualty Co, et al., 481Mich. 862 (2008), reversing Court of Appeals after being briefed and argued on application by Carson J. Tucker for Trucking Company and Insurer
  • Nuculovic v. Hill and SMART, 287 Mich. App. 58 (2010), briefed by Carson J. Tucker for SMART
  • Molnar v. Amy Allen, Oakland County Care House, et al, 359 Fed. Appx. 623 (6th Cir. 2009), affirming district court’s judgment in favor of client represented by Carson J. Tucker
  • Molnar v. Amy Allen, Oakland County Care House, et al., Case No. 09-1536 (2009), successful defense of application to United States Supreme Court by Carson J. Tucker
  • Wetherill v. McHugh, et al., Case No. 10-638 (2011), co-draft response on behalf of South Dakota National Guard to petition for appeal to United States Supreme Court, cert denied by Supreme Court.

Michigan Supreme Court Denies Leave in Two of Three Cases Pending to Address Legal Causation Under No-Fault Act for Motorcycle Accidents

Last week I filed an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief in the State Farm v. MMRMA case pending on application to the Michigan Supreme Court.  As I mentioned in my last post, there were two other cases, both pending on applications to the Court, which asked the Court to deal with the same issue that is presented in this particular case.  Yesterday, the Court denied the applications in those cases.  See the orders here: DMC Case and Smutski v. Auto-Owners, et al.

There has been no disposition of the application in the case for which I submitted an amicus brief.  Thus, it remains the only one still pending.

I previously wrote about these cases in the following posts:

Amicus Curiae Brief Filed in State Farm v. MMRMA

State Farm Seeks Contribution from County Sheriff for Motorcyclist’s Injuries Suffered in Motor Vehicle Accident While Fleeing from Police

Braverman ex rel Smutski v. Auto-Owners, et al.

DMC v. Progressive, et al.

As I mentioned in my previous posts, the Court of Appeals in the Auto Owners case actually remanded for a determination of the factual circumstances involving the motorcycle accident.  There was a question of fact whether the tractor trailer had identifying lights on while it was in the roadway just before the motorcyclist crashed trying to avoid impact with the truck.  In the DMC v. Progressive case the Court of Appeals actually ruled there was no causation.  The “evidence” of involvement of another vehicle was based only on the motorcyclist’s testimony that an unidentified vehicle was about to cross his path and he wrecked his bike while trying to avoid the collision.

It is difficult, if not impossible, to interpret the Court’s actions from its non-action on these two applications.

We shall see what the Court does with the application in the State Farm case.  Although, interestingly, that case has the added wrinkle of involving a governmental entity as the insurance carrier.  Hence, my participation as amicus curiae author in support of the carrier’s application on behalf of Oakland, Wayne and Macomb counties.

I have been at the forefront of the motorcycle accident cases due to my authorship of amicus curiae briefs in the DeYoung / Spectrum case, which I wrote about here:

Supreme Court to Address Taking of Motorcycle in Insurance Coverage Dispute

Supreme Court Undertakes Joyriding and Unauthorized Taking of Motor Vehicles and Motorcycles

up until the present time involving these most recent significant pronouncements on the level of causation and priority among insurers under MCL 500.3114(5) of Michigan’s No-Fault Act.

For more information about this and other similar cases contact Carson J. Tucker, Chair of the Appeals and Legal Research Group at Lacey & Jones, LLP, a Birmingham law firm serving clients since 1912.  Mr. Tucker can be reached at (248) 283-0763.

For more information about Lacey & Jones, click on the following practice area company pages on Linked In.

Lacey & Jones, LLP’s Appeals and Legal Research Group

Lacey & Jones, LLP’s Insurance Coverage and Recovery Group

Lacey & Jones, LLP’s Civil Litigation Group

 

Supreme Court Denies Challenge to Court of Appeals Holding that Term “Bodily Injury” in Motor Vehicle Exception to Governmental Immunity is Limited to Medical Damages for Corporeal Injury to Body and Does Not Encompass Non-Economic Tort Damages

In an order issued yesterday, Hunter v. Sisco.sct.order.11.20.2013, the Michigan Supreme Court denied an appeal challenging the Court of Appeals published opinion, which held the term “bodily injury” in the statutory provision known as the motor vehicle exception to governmental immunity in the Governmental Tort Liability Act (GTLA), MCL 691.1405, does not encompass non-economic tort damages, such as pain and suffering, etc.

I previously wrote about this case in a blog post here:  Supreme Court Asked to Consider Extent of Damages Available for “Bodily Injury” Under the Motor Vehicle Exception to Governmental Immunity.

The Court of Appeals published opinion, Hunter v. Sisco et al, has already been cited by other cases for the proposition;, as I explained in a blog post here about another Supreme Court order denying an application to consider a similar ruling: Supreme Court Denies Application to Consider Whether Bodily Injury Encompasses Bystander Emotional Trauma / Pain and Suffering / Non-Economic Damages Under the Motor Vehicle Exception.

Feel free to call Carson J. Tucker, Chair of the Appeals and Legal Research Group at Lacey & Jones, LLP at (248) 283-0763 if you have any questions about any of these cases.  Mr. Tucker regularly participates in cases before the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals on issues touching many subject-matter areas of civil litigation, including governmental immunity.

Throughout its storied history, Lacey & Jones has distinguished itself from other law firms by maintaining a robust Appeals and Legal Research Group.  Effective appellate representation demands different skills than those required by litigation attorneys.  Our appellate attorneys are adept at analyzing the intricacies of each case from an objective and critical perspective.  From reviewing and preparing the lower court record, identifying appealable errors, and developing a strategy to raise issues that will be addressed by appellate courts, our seasoned appellate team is capable of handling the most complex appeals from the application stage to oral advocacy before the highest courts.  Our research abilities and knowledge of current issues in nearly all major subject-matter areas of the law provide our clients with efficient and immediate assistance with complex and high-exposure cases.   We are experienced at navigating through the Michigan Court of Appeals and Supreme Court to shepherd the appeal in the most expeditious fashion possible so that it can be reviewed and quickly ruled upon.  During the last three decades alone, the Appeals and Legal Research Group at Lacey & Jones has been responsible for over 150 published decisions in the Michigan Court of Appeals and Supreme Court, including seminal decisions in workers’ compensation, governmental immunity, employment and labor law, civil rights law and insurance coverage.  Because of its specialized knowledge and focus on appellate law and its recognized expertise, the Appeals and Legal Research Group at Lacey & Jones has been asked to participate as amicus curiae writing briefs for the Supreme Court or as special counsel to the Michigan Attorney General and other governmental entities in some of the most significant cases in the Court of Appeals and Supreme Court.   Below are some of the recent significant cases in which Lacey & Jones, LLP’s Appeals and Legal Research Group has participated.

  • State Farm v. MMRMA, ___ Mich App ___ (2013), amicus curiae for Oakland County in support of MMRMA application, by Carson J. Tucker
  • Hannay v MDOT, ___ Mich ___ 201_), application granted, amicus curiae to be filed for MTA, et al., by Carson J. Tucker
  • Yono v. MDOT, ___ Mich ___ (201_), oral argument on application granted, amicus curiae for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne County filed by Carson J. Tucker in support of the state’s application
  • Huddleston v. Trinity Health, et al., ___ Mich ___ (201_), oral argument on application granted, amicus curiae with Lawrence Garcia, Esq., for MDTC
  • Ashley, LLC v Pittsfield Twp., 494 Mich 875 (2013), application granted, for Pittsfield Township by Carson J. Tucker (resolved by settlement)
  • Bailey v. Schaaf, ___ Mich ___ (2013), amicus curiae for MDTC by Carson J. Tucker
  • Atkins v. SMART, 492 Mich 707 (2012), oral argument on application, Court of Appeals case reversed by opinion, Carson J. Tucker
  • Hagerty v Manistee, 493 Mich 933 (2013), amicus curiae for Michigan Municipal League, et al., by Carson J. Tucker
  • McMurtrie v Eaton Corp, 490 Mich 976 (2011)
  • Findley v DaimlerChrysler Corp., 490 Mich 928 (2011)
  • Brewer v. AD.Transport Express, Inc, 486 Mich 50 (2010)
  • Stokes v Chrysler, 481 Mich 266 (2008)
  • Brackett v Focus Hope, Inc, 482 Mich 269 (2008)
  • Rakestraw v Gen Dynamics, 469 Mich 220 (2003)
  • Sington v Chrysler Corp., (2002)

Other appeal cases Carson Tucker has handled include

  • Hamed v. Wayne County, et al., 490 Mich. 1 (2011), reversing Court of Appeals published opinion after being briefed and argued by Carson J. Tucker on behalf of Wayne County
  • Odom v. Wayne County, et al., 482 Mich. 459 (2008), reversing Court of Appeals after being briefed and argued by Carson J. Tucker on behalf of Wayne County and Wayne County Sheriff and Deputies
  • Michigan Department of Transportation v Employers Mutual Casualty Co, et al., 481Mich. 862 (2008), reversing Court of Appeals after being briefed and argued on application by Carson J. Tucker for Trucking Company and Insurer
  • Nuculovic v. Hill and SMART, 287 Mich. App. 58 (2010), briefed by Carson J. Tucker for SMART
  • Molnar v. Amy Allen, Oakland County Care House, et al, 359 Fed. Appx. 623 (6th Cir. 2009), affirming district court’s judgment in favor of client represented by Carson J. Tucker
  • Molnar v. Amy Allen, Oakland County Care House, et al., Case No. 09-1536 (2009), successful defense of application to United States Supreme Court by Carson J. Tucker
  • Wetherill v. McHugh, et al., Case No. 10-638 (2011), co-draft response on behalf of South Dakota National Guard to petition for appeal to United States Supreme Court, cert denied by Supreme Court.

Supreme Court to Consider Meaning of “Bodily Injury” Under Motor Vehicle Exception

I am writing an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief on behalf of Wayne County and Michigan Townships Association, among others, in this public liability case in which the Supreme Court has granted the State of Michigan’s application for leave to appeal to address whether “bodily injury” liability available against the government under the “motor vehicle” exception to governmental immunity encompasses damages other than those directly related to those associated with corporeal physical injury to the plaintiff. The case will have a significant impact on the day-to-day operations of the government and the decision will have consequences upon the ability of governmental entities to fund public services.

See my previous post about this case here:

Supreme Court to Consider Scope of “Bodily Injury” Under Motor Vehicle Exception

Bus Passenger’s Cause of Action Dismissed Against Transportation Commission – Court of Appeals Affirms Trial Court’s Judgment for Transportation Commission

In Palmer v. Blue Water Area Transportation Commission, the Court of Appeals affirmed a trial court’s judgment of no cause of action against a governmental entity (here a transportation commission) in a suit by a bus passenger alleging negligence and gross negligence against the governmental entity and its employee, respectively.

Plaintiff fell while boarding the bus.  She attributed the fall to the driver’s actions, claiming the driver allowed the bus to lurch or move forward as she was boarding.  Plaintiff’s story was inconsistent.  In various contexts, she gave varying versions of what happened prior to her fall.  The bus driver testified the bus was in park and she had her foot on the brake while plaintiff boarded the bus and did not move the bus prior to plaintiff’s fall.

Since defendant was a governmental entity, the plaintiff claimed negligent operation of a motor vehicle, under the motor vehicle exception to governmental immunity (MCL 691.1405); gross negligence against the driver, claiming that such negligence was the proximate cause of her injuries (MCL 691.1407); and that she suffered a “threshold injury” (serious impairment of a bodily function) under MCL 500.3135 of the No-Fault Act.

Primarily finding plaintiff’s testimony to be inconsistent and therefore not credible, the trial court judge granted the governmental entity’s motion for judgment finding no cause of action existed.

The Court of Appeals affirms in this opinion.  The opinion is rather unremarkable as a whole, but it does contain a convenient synopsis of the standards applicable to bring a cause of action under the motor vehicle exception and the gross negligence exception to governmental immunity.  It also points out that to prove a threshold injury for (economic or non-economic) damages under the No-Fault Act, the plaintiff must first establish the proper standards of care and that such standards were breached by the governmental entity.

This is significant, because it establishes the fundamental principle that before a plaintiff can seek any ordinary tort damages arising out of the alleged operation of a motor vehicle under the No-Fault Act in an action against a governmental entity, he or she must first establish the existence of a valid statutory exception to immunity.

The correlation between the Governmental Tort Liability Act (the GTLA), and, specifically, the “motor vehicle” exception under MCL 691.1405, and the No-Fault Act, MCL 500.3100 et seq. provides some interesting issues, many of which are either making their way up through the appellate courts, or residing on applications or grants thereof in the Supreme Court of Michigan.

For example, the Supreme Court has granted to consider the extent of “economic damages” available to a plaintiff injured in an automobile accident with a government vehicle in the case of Hannay v. MDOT, Supreme Court Case No. 146763 (see the Court’s grant order here: hannay-v-mdot).  This is a significant case as the Court is set to consider the extent and scope of damages available in actions against the government within the meaning of MCL 691.1405, which allows only for “bodily injury and property damage” in actions for negligent operation of a motor vehicle.  I previously wrote a blog explaining the details of this case, which you can read here:  Supreme Court to Consider Scope of Damages Available for “Bodily Injury” Under the Motor Vehicle Exception to Governmental Immunity.  I am also writing an amicus curiae brief on behalf of several entities in this case.

In Hunter v. Sisco, ___ Mich. App. ___ (2013), which was cited by the Court of Appeals panel in this case, cross applications have been filed.  Underlying issues in that case include the extent of “noneconomic” damages available to plaintiffs claiming negligent operation of a motor vehicle under MCL 691.1405.  I wrote about that case in an earlier blog which you can read here:  Supreme Court Asked to Consider Whether “Non-Economic Damages” Are Available to Plaintiffs in Actions Against the Government Under the Motor Vehicle Exception to Governmental Immunity.  The disposition of Hannay could very well impact the outcome of this case.

It appears the answer to the latter question, to wit, whether non-economic damages are available under the motor vehicle exception, is considered by the Court of Appeals to be “No”.  Just yesterday, I wrote about a case in which the Court of Appeals, again citing Hunter, held non-economic, pain and suffering damages were not available to a plaintiff in a wrongful death action against the government filed, in part, under the motor vehicle exception.  The Supreme Court denied the plaintiff’s application for leave to appeal in that case.  See my post here:  Supreme Court Denies Application to Reconsider Court of Appeals Decision Affirming Non-Economic Damages Are Not Available Against the Government Under the Motor Vehicle Exception.

The issue remains extant because the Supreme Court has not directly addressed the “scope and extent” of the damages that are available to an individual plaintiff in actions against the government under the motor vehicle exception.  The closest case, which is cited in the Supreme Court’s grant order in the Hannay case, is Weschler v. Mecosta County Rd. Comm’n, 480 Mich. 75 (2008), which defined the term “bodily injury” under the GTLA’s motor vehicle exception as “physical or corporeal injury to the body”. Weschler however addressed “loss of consortium” damages claimed by the plaintiff’s spouse and held that such claims were not recoverable under the “motor vehicle exception”.  Id.  This did not answer the question of the extent and scope of damages available directly to the plaintiff claiming injury to his or her own person under the exception.

Feel free to call Carson J. Tucker, Chair of the Appeals and Legal Research Group at Lacey & Jones, LLP at (248) 283-0763 if you have any questions about any of these cases.

Throughout its storied history, Lacey & Jones has distinguished itself from other law firms by maintaining a robust Appeals and Legal Research Group.  Effective appellate representation demands different skills than those required by litigation attorneys.  Our appellate attorneys are adept at analyzing the intricacies of each case from an objective and critical perspective.  From reviewing and preparing the lower court record, identifying appealable errors, and developing a strategy to raise issues that will be addressed by appellate courts, our seasoned appellate team is capable of handling the most complex appeals from the application stage to oral advocacy before the highest courts.  Our research abilities and knowledge of current issues in nearly all major subject-matter areas of the law provide our clients with efficient and immediate assistance with complex and high-exposure cases.   We are experienced at navigating through the Michigan Court of Appeals and Supreme Court to shepherd the appeal in the most expeditious fashion possible so that it can be reviewed and quickly ruled upon.  During the last three decades alone, the Appeals and Legal Research Group at Lacey & Jones has been responsible for over 150 published decisions in the Michigan Court of Appeals and Supreme Court, including seminal decisions in workers’ compensation, governmental immunity, employment and labor law, civil rights law and insurance coverage.  Because of its specialized knowledge and focus on appellate law and its recognized expertise, the Appeals and Legal Research Group at Lacey & Jones has been asked to participate as amicus curiae writing briefs for the Supreme Court or as special counsel to the Michigan Attorney General and other governmental entities in some of the most significant cases in the Court of Appeals and Supreme Court.   Below are some of the recent significant cases in which Lacey & Jones, LLP’s Appeals and Legal Research Group has participated.

  • State Farm v. MMRMA, ___ Mich App ___ (2013), amicus curiae for Oakland County in support of MMRMA application, by Carson J. Tucker
  • Hannay v MDOT, ___ Mich ___ 201_), application granted, amicus curiae to be filed for MTA, et al., by Carson J. Tucker
  • Yono v. MDOT, ___ Mich ___ (201_), oral argument on application granted, amicus curiae for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne County filed by Carson J. Tucker in support of the state’s application
  • Huddleston v. Trinity Health, et al., ___ Mich ___ (201_), oral argument on application granted, amicus curiae with Lawrence Garcia, Esq., for MDTC
  • Ashley, LLC v Pittsfield Twp., 494 Mich 875 (2013), application granted, for Pittsfield Township by Carson J. Tucker (resolved by settlement)
  • Bailey v. Schaaf, ___ Mich ___ (2013), amicus curiae for MDTC by Carson J. Tucker
  • Atkins v. SMART, 492 Mich 707 (2012), oral argument on application, Court of Appeals case reversed by opinion, Carson J. Tucker
  • Hagerty v Manistee, 493 Mich 933 (2013), amicus curiae for Michigan Municipal League, et al., by Carson J. Tucker
  • McMurtrie v Eaton Corp, 490 Mich 976 (2011)
  • Findley v DaimlerChrysler Corp., 490 Mich 928 (2011)
  • Brewer v. AD.Transport Express, Inc, 486 Mich 50 (2010)
  • Stokes v Chrysler, 481 Mich 266 (2008)
  • Brackett v Focus Hope, Inc, 482 Mich 269 (2008)
  • Rakestraw v Gen Dynamics, 469 Mich 220 (2003)
  • Sington v Chrysler Corp., (2002)

Other appeal cases Carson Tucker has handled include

  • Hamed v. Wayne County, et al., 490 Mich. 1 (2011), reversing Court of Appeals published opinion after being briefed and argued by Carson J. Tucker on behalf of Wayne County
  • Odom v. Wayne County, et al., 482 Mich. 459 (2008), reversing Court of Appeals after being briefed and argued by Carson J. Tucker on behalf of Wayne County and Wayne County Sheriff and Deputies
  • Michigan Department of Transportation v Employers Mutual Casualty Co, et al., 481

    Mich. 862 (2008), reversing Court of Appeals after being briefed and argued on application by Carson J. Tucker for Trucking Company and Insurer

  • Nuculovic v. Hill and SMART, 287 Mich. App. 58 (2010), briefed by Carson J. Tucker for SMART
  • Molnar v. Amy Allen, Oakland County Care House, et al, 359 Fed. Appx. 623 (6th Cir. 2009), affirming district court’s judgment in favor of client represented by Carson J. Tucker
  • Molnar v. Amy Allen, Oakland County Care House, et al., Case No. 09-1536 (2009), successful defense of application to United States Supreme Court by Carson J. Tucker
  • Wetherill v. McHugh, et al., Case No. 10-638 (2011), co-draft response on behalf of South Dakota National Guard to petition for appeal to United States Supreme Court, cert denied by Supreme Court.