Amicus Brief

Hannay v Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT)

Case Year: 2014
Case Forum: Michigan Supreme Court
Keywords: Governmental Tort Liability Act (GTLA), No-Fault Act, work-loss damage
Amicus Counsel:

Mary Massaron Ross (P43885) | Hilary A. Ballentine (P69979) |
Plunkett Cooney | 38505 Woodward Avenue Suite 2000 |
Bloomfield Hills MI 48304 | 313-983-4801


Michigan’s broad immunity was enacted to protect governmental parties from the distractions and expenses of defending tort lawsuits filed against them in the same
way that the doctrine of sovereign immunity had historically protected the state. This Court emphasized that governmental immunity “protects the state not only from liability, but from the great public expense of having to contest a trial.” The statute also is predicated on the theory that governmental parties engage in a great deal of risky conduct in the course of
serving the public, often are seen as deep-pocket defendants, and lawsuits against them may serve to deter useful and socially desirable conduct because of the risk of suit. To
guard against this, the Legislature enacted broad protections for governmental parties of all kinds. The Governmental Tort Liability Act was intended to protect governmental parties against the burdens of discovery and trial, as well as against the potential for liability. In the event this Court determines that work-loss damages are recoverable against a governmental defendant under the No-Fault Act, Amicus Curiae submits that the Court should nonetheless reverse the lower courts’ decisions and hold that speculative damages proofs are insufficient to establish such damages under the applicable provisions of the No-Fault Act. Left uncorrected by this Court, the Hannay published opinion creates a dangerous precedent that it is entirely acceptable for a fact-finder (whether it be a jury or a bench trial) to predicate an award of work-loss benefits under MCL 500.3135(3)(c) and MCL 500.3107(1)(b) on speculation and conjecture. Not only does this run afoul of the purpose of economic damages, it creates unpredictable outcomes for defendants, raises litigation and insurance costs, and results in windfall damages awards to plaintiffs.


The Michigan Supreme Court held:
The phrase “liable for bodily injury” contained in the motor vehicle exception to governmental immunity, MCL 691.1405, means legally responsible for damages flowing from a physical or corporeal injury to the body. The restrictions on damages recoverable in third-party tort actions involving motor vehicle accidents set forth in MCL 500.3135 of the no-fault act
apply to cases permitted by the waiver of governmental immunity provided for in the motor vehicle exception. A plaintiff, therefore, may bring a third-party tort action for economic damages, such as work-loss damages, and noneconomic damages, such as pain and suffering or
emotional distress damages, against a governmental entity if the requirements of MCL 500.3135 have been met. In Hannay, Docket No. 146763, that portion of the decision of the Court of Appeals allowing recovery against a governmental entity of economic damages exceeding the statutory maximum affirmed; that portion of the decision of the Court of Appeals affirming the trial court’s work-loss damages award reversed; case remanded to the trial court for recalculation of the work-loss award.

MSC requested LDF amicus brief? No

Heather Hannay brought an action in the Court of Claims against the Department of Transportation (MDOT), seeking damages for injuries she suffered when a salt truck driven by
one of MDOT’s employees ran a stop sign and struck her car. After a bench trial, the court awarded Hannay $474,904 in noneconomic damages, $767,076 for work-loss benefits, and $153,872 in expenses for ordinary and necessary services. MDOT appealed, and Hannay cross-appealed. The Court of Appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court granted MDOT’s
application for leave to appeal in order to consider whether economic loss in the form of wage-loss may qualify as a bodily injury under the motor vehicle exception to governmental immunity and whether Hannay incurred a loss of income from work that she would have performed as opposed to a loss of earning capacity.

Case Number: 2012-17
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