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Henderson v City of Detroit, et al (COA – UNP 3/18/2021; RB #4236)


Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket # 350858; Unpublished
Judges O’Brien, Servitto, and Gleicher; Per Curiam
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: Not Applicable; Link to Opinion

Applicability of Comparative Fault to Noneconomic Loss Claims [§3135(2)]

Not Applicable

In this unanimous unpublished per curiam decision, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s denial of Defendant City of Detroit’s motion for summary disposition in which it sought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 Christopher Henderson’s third-party action against it.  The Court of Appeals held that, although Henderson was at least partly negligent for attempting to change lanes without first ensuring that he could do so safely, he presented sufficient evidence to create a question of fact as to whether Patricia Lauderdale, a bus driver for the City of Detroit, was more than 50% negligent by driving her bus in excess of the speed limit at the time it crashed into Henderson’s vehicle.

The bus driven by Lauderdale collided with Henderson’s vehicle as he attempted to pull out of a parking lane and into the lane of traffic that Lauderdale was traveling in.  The evidence in the case confirmed that Henderson had begun to enter Lauderdale’s lane at the time of the crash, but Henderson testified that he believed Lauderdale was sufficiently far behind him at the time he initiated his lane change that he would be able to do so safely.  Based on this information, the City of Detroit moved for summary disposition, arguing that “the evidence established that only plaintiff was negligent because he attempted to merge into Lauderdale’s lane ‘without first ascertaining that such a lane change could be made with safety.’”  Henderson submitted two affidavits with his response to the City of Detroit’s motion—one from him and one from a passenger on Lauderdale’s bus at the time of the crash, who testified that Lauderdale “was exceeding the speed limit” and driving like a “bat out of hell.”  Based on these affidavits, the trial court ruled that a question of fact existed as to whether Lauderdale was more than 50% at fault for the accident, and thus denied the City of Detroit’s motion.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s denial, holding that, although it was uncontroverted that Henderson was at least partly negligent for the crash—by attempting to pull into Lauderdale’s lane of traffic without yielding to Lauderdale’s vehicle, which was already lawfully in that lane—a reasonable juror could still conclude that Lauderdale was more than 50% at fault for the accident based on her alleged speeding.

"When viewed in the light most favorable to plaintiff, the evidence suggests that plaintiff saw Lauderdale’s bus stopped at a light and determined that he had enough time to pull into the Lauderdale’s lane.  But, after the light turned green, Lauderdale accelerated until the bus was traveling in excess of the posted speed limit, despite plaintiff indicating with both his signal and hand his intent to pull into Lauderdale’s lane.  As a result, when plaintiff inched into Lauderdale’s lane, the bus sideswiped plaintiff’s truck.  While plaintiff was required to anticipate that he could safely enter Lauderdale’s lane, MCL 257.642(1)(a), he was not required to anticipate that Lauderdale would quickly accelerate from her stopped position to speeds in excess of the posted speed limit so as to effectively block plaintiff from entering the bus’s lane . . ."

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