Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket #360352; Unpublished
Judges Hood, Cameron, and Garrett; Per Curiam
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: Not Applicable; Link to Opinion
Motor Vehicle Exception to Governmental Tort Liability Act
In this unanimous, unpublished, per curiam decision, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s denial of Defendant City of Detroit’s motion for summary disposition, in which it sought dismissal of Plaintiff Jacqueline Saucillo’s auto negligence action. The Court of Appeals held that Saucillo presented sufficient evidence to create a question of fact as to whether a City of Detroit bus driver was negligent in his operation of the bus Saucillo was traveling on at the time of her injuries.
Jacqueline Saucillo was injured after the driver of the City of Detroit bus she was traveling on slammed on the brakes to avoid a collision with a white van that had pulled in front of it. Saucillo alleged that the bus driver was not paying attention to the road in the moments leading up to his slamming on the brakes—that he was ‘turning his head, looking in the mirrors at his passengers, and attempting to join their conversation,’ which caused him to not see the white van pull out in front of it soon enough to avoid having to slam on the brakes. Saucillo eventually filed suit against the City of Detroit pursuant to the “motor-vehicle exception” to the Governmental Tort Liability Act, and the City of Detroit moved for summary disposition, arguing that the white van created a sudden emergency for the driver that he abated by slamming on the brakes. Attached to the City’s motion was an affidavit from the driver, in which he stated, ‘[A] white vehicle pulled in front of the coach and stopped suddenly, which forced me to stop the coach.’ The trial court ultimately denied the City’s motion, finding that a question of fact existed as to whether the driver was paying appropriate attention to the road prior to slamming on the brakes.
The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s summary disposition order, holding that Saucillo presented sufficient evidence to create a question of fact as to whether the bus driver was negligent, specifically, her testimony regarding the driver’s conduct in the moments leading up to his slamming on the brakes.
“Under the burden-shifting framework of an MCR 2.116(C)(10) motion for summary disposition, the moving party bears the initial burden of supporting their allegations with ‘affidavits, depositions, admissions, or other documentary evidence.’ Quinto, 451 Mich at 362. Detroit satisfied this burden by presenting evidence that the accident was caused by a white vehicle stopping suddenly. The burden then shifted to Saucillo to refute these allegations with similar documentary evidence. Saucillo satisfied her burden because her evidence shows Doe was talking to the passengers instead of paying attention to the road. The trial court was required to construe the conflicts in the evidence in a light most favorable to Saucillo. Therefore, it was proper for the trial court to deny Detroit’s motion for summary disposition because Saucillo’s evidence demonstrates Doe’s negligence may have caused the accident. Detroit’s arguments in this appeal ask this Court to weigh Saucillo’s evidence against her. However, we cannot substitute our judgment for that of the fact-finder, and we decline to do so now. Ellsworth v Hotel Corp of America, 236 Mich App 185, 194; 600 NW2d 129 (1999).”