Under the Government Tort Liability Act (GTLA), a government employee is not liable for causing personal injury or property damage, provided his conduct "does not amount to gross negligence that is the proximate cause of the injury or damage."(1)
In Dedes v. Asch,(2) the Michigan Supreme Court was asked to interpret the phrase "the proximate cause" contained in the GTLA. The Court held in Dedes that the Legislature's use of the definite article "the" to modify the term "proximate cause" did not mean "the sole proximate cause." Instead, the Court interpreted the words, "the proximate cause," to mean "a proximate cause" of the plaintiff's injuries. Consequently, the school bus driver in Dedes was not immune from suit when children were hit by a passing car immediately after alighting from the school bus.
As a matter of the plain meaning of words, the dissent in Dedes questioned whether the majority had correctly determined the Legislature's intent on this question of statutory interpretation.
The Commission makes the following recommendation to the Legislature:
Legislatively overrule Dedes v. Asch, and clarify legislative intent, by amending the GTLA, M.C.L. § 691.1407(c), M.S.A. § 3.996(107)(c), to provide that "conduct does not amount to gross negligence that is the sole proximate cause of the injury or damage."
(1) M.C.L. § 691.1407(2)(c), M.S.A. § 3.996(107)(c).
(2) 446 Mich. 99, 521 N.W. 2d 488 (1994).
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