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Schemahorn, et al v City of Niles, et al (COA – UNP 3/10/2022; RB #4393)

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Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket #355028; Unpublished
Judges Riordan, Kelly, and Swartzle; Per Curiam
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: Not Applicable; Link to Opinion


STATUTORY INDEXING:
Not Applicable

TOPICAL INDEXING:
Gross Negligence Exception to Governmental Immunity
Motor-Vehicle Exception to Governmental Tort Liability Act


SUMMARY:
In this unanimous, unpublished, per curiam decision, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s summary disposition order dismissing Plaintiff Sharyn Schemahorn’s third-party auto negligence action against Defendants City of Niles, Police Officer Vincent Horton, and Police Officer Jenny Evans. The Court of Appeals held that Horton and Evans were not negligent in their pursuit of a fleeing suspect, who crashed into Schemahorn’s vehicle while attempting to evade police.

Officers Horton and Evans were on-duty as police officers for the City of Niles when they attempted to perform a traffic stop of Andrew Walker. Walker resisted their attempt and fled the scene, prompting Horton and Evans to pursue him in their patrol vehicle. While attempting to evade Horton and Evans, Walker lost control of his vehicle and crashed into Sharyn Schemahorn’s vehicle, causing Schemahorn to sustain multiple injuries. After the crash, Schemahorn filed a third-party automobile negligence action against the City of Niles—under the motor vehicle exception to governmental immunity—and against Horton and Evans, personally, alleging gross negligence in their pursuit of Walker. The City of Niles, Horton, and Evans moved for summary disposition, arguing that, under Robinson v Detroit, 462 Mich 439 (2000), Horton and Evans were not negligent as a matter of law. The trial court agreed and granted their motion.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s summary disposition order, observing preliminarily that, in Robinson, the Michigan Supreme Court held (1) “that ‘an officer’s decision to pursue [a suspect] does not constitute the negligent operation of a motor vehicle,’ ” and (2) if an allegation of negligence against a police officer is based on his or her pursuit of a fleeing suspect, “the plaintiff must show that the pursuing police vehicle hit the fleeing car or otherwise physically forced it off the road or into another vehicle or object.” Therefore, in this case, the Court of Appeals held that it did not matter that Horton and Evans “exceeded the speed limit, failed to stop at stop signs, and illegally passed other motorists” in their pursuit of Walker—the sole, critical fact was that they did not make physical contact with either Schemahorn’s vehicle or Walker’s vehicle. Because they did not make said physical contact, the Court held that Robinson was controlling and that Horton and Evans were not negligent as a matter of law.

“Plaintiffs also argue that Robinson is distinguishable because, unlike in Robinson, plaintiffs have presented prediscovery evidence of the City defendants’ negligence. Plaintiffs argue that this evidence, which includes the dashcam video from the police vehicle, shows defendants exceeded the speed limit, failed to stop at stop signs, and illegally passed other motorists. However, we do not read the Michigan Supreme Court’s holding in Robinson as leaving room for such evidence. In other words, regardless of the officers’ actions on the video, plaintiffs must still show, under Robinson, that the officers made physical contact with their vehicle or Walker’s vehicle.”

 

 


Lansing car accident lawyer Stephen Sinas is the lead editor of the appellate case summaries published on this site regarding the Michigan auto insurance law. To learn more about how Stephen Sinas and how the Sinas Dramis Law Firm can help you if you have been injured in a Michigan auto accident, visit SinasDramis.com.

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