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Wallington v. Miller (COA – UNP 11/19/2019; RB #3997)


Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket # 345704; Unpublished                                                          
Judges Borrello, Kelly, and Servitto; per curiam
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: Not Applicable; Link to Opinion

Not Applicable

Court of Claims Litigations
Motor Vehicle Exception to Governmental Immunity

In this unanimous unpublished per curiam decision, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s summary disposition order in favor of the defendant, Martin Rogers Miller, pursuant to MCR 2.116(C)(7) and (C)(10).  Miller, a Michigan State Police community service trooper, was driving his personal vehicle to a training session when he rear-ended the plaintiff, Sean Wallington.  The Court of Appeals determined that Miller was in the course of his employment at the time of the collision, and was therefore entitled to governmental immunity under MCL 691.1407(2).

The training session that Miller was en route to at the time of the collision was a weeklong event that required Miller to stay at a hotel.  He was given the option of either driving his assigned police vehicle or his personal vehicle to the event, but since he could not leave the hotel for personal trips if he were to take his police vehicle, he decided to take his personal vehicle and seek mileage reimbursement from the MSP.  After the collision, Wallington filed an auto negligence action against Miller, and Miller moved for summary disposition, arguing that he was entitled to immunity because he was in the course of his employment at the time of the collision.  In support of that contention, Miller noted that he “was on his way to work (having the option to use his personal vehicle or patrol car), he was referred to as on duty in his daily log, he was compensated for his time, and he was entitled to compensation for his mileage driven that day.”  The trial court ultimately agreed with Miller, holding that he was in the course of his employment at the time of the collision and therefore entitled to governmental immunity.

In affirming the trial court’s summary disposition order in favor of Miller, the Court of Appeals relied on its prior analysis in Backus v Kauffman (On Rehearing), 238 Mich App 402 (1999):

The necessary considerations are “(1) the existence of an employment relationship, (2) the circumstances of the work environment created by the employment relationship, including the ‘temporal and spatial boundaries established,’ and (3) ‘the notion that the act in question was undertaken in furtherance of the employer’s purpose.’”

As to each of those considerations, the Court of Appeals noted:

There was a clear employment relationship between defendant and the Michigan State Police. Defendant was not a traditional patrol officer, but was a community service trooper. Defendant was assigned the job of driving to and speaking in Lansing and was required to travel between his home and the location of his speaking assignments to accomplish his work. Defendant was furthering his employer’s purpose because he was assigned to speak at the TEAM event. The travel component of defendant’s job was an essential element of his duties. Defendant was compensated for his time between 6:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., and he had the option of receiving compensation for the miles he traveled.

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