A Bus Driver is Responsible to Properly Secure a Wheelchair to the Bus Restraint System
In the unpublished decision of Estate of Rita H. Hughes v City of Livonia, No. 340447 (April 30, 2019), the Michigan Court of Appeals recently held that there were sufficient questions of fact to avoid dismissal of a claim involving serious personal injuries sustained by a woman when her wheelchair was not properly secured by a City of Livonia bus driver. The bus driver had operated the wheelchair lift, selected a spot for the woman and attached the wheelchair the to bus’s Q’Straint system. However, when the bus hit a pothole, her wheelchair rolled forward, backward and then flipped backward.
First, the City of Livonia argued that it was entitled to immunity as a matter of law because the bus driver’s actions were not part of the “operation” of the bus and, even if they were, he was not negligent. The trial court and the Court of Appeals disagreed, holding that securing the wheelchair to the Q’Straint system is part of the process of loading and unloading passengers and part of “operation” of a bus.
The Court further held that there was a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the driver negligently secured the decedent’s wheelchair based on expert testimony that sand, dirt, and debris in the restraint system’s L-track prevented the front two anchorages from totally engaging, and locking into place, which the bus driver failed to confirm before departing.
Finally, the Court of Appeals disagreed with the trial court that there was a fact question as to whether the sudden lurch of the bus was caused by the driver’s negligent driver, stating that sudden jolts “are a normal incident of travel.”