Pizza delivery driver accident with pedestrian case dismissed

Michigan Auto Law

Pizza delivery driver’s bad brakes don’t slow down court from blaming pedestrian injured while trying to cross the street

A pedestrian doesn’t stand a chance of getting justice in Michigan – even when the delivery driver is driving with bad brakes.

Previously, I have written that the Michigan Court of Appeals’ “guidance” on how people should cross the street did not conform to real life and failed to account for how most pedestrians are hit by cars:

“The real reason why most people are hit by cars has far less to do with what the pedestrian is doing and far more to do with what the driver of the car is doing (and not doing). . . . Excessive speed and an inattentive driver are a much bigger cause of most people getting hit by cars when they cross the street than the ‘tips’ that these judges elevated into an absolute affirmative defense.”

In the case that gave rise to the appellate judges’ “guidance” for pedestrians, the Court of Appeals effectively blamed the pedestrian – a young, school-age child – for getting fatally injured in an auto accident while trying to cross the street.

Now, in another case, the court is back at it: Blaming the pedestrian for being in the way of a vehicle whose “brakes had less than full functionality.”

Driver not responsible for injuries to pedestrian

Driving a vehicle with bad brakes that barely functioned, a driver who struck a woman who was trying to cross the street to get to the bus stop after work is not held accountable for his choices or actions - nor the injuries and long-term pain they caused the pedestrian.

In Thurman v. Cleaveland, the Court of Appeals ruled that a lawsuit for pain and suffering by a Washtenaw County pedestrian who was severely injured (unconscious for seven days and hospitalized for 22 days) when she was struck by a pizza delivery driver while trying to cross Ann Arbor-Saline Road in Ann Arbor was properly dismissed even though the driver had bad brakes.

The driver claimed he was already “braking” and “immediately after seeing a dark shape in the road, he applied his brakes harder” when he unsuccessfully tried to avoid hitting Janet Thurman.

Significantly, evidence from a certified mechanic showed:

  • The “right tires had approximately 10% to 15% of the brake pad remaining …”
  • The “rear right tire had no outer brake pad, but there was a little left on the inner pad.”
  • “The rear left tire only had little brake pad left and was almost metal to metal contact.”
  • The “brake fluid levels were low.”

Yet, even though the Court of Appeals acknowledged “the brakes on [the pizza delivery driver’s] vehicle had mechanical problems” and “it is clear that the brakes had less than full functionality,” the judges still voted in favor of dismissing the pedestrian’s lawsuit.

The court reasoned that:

Even though Thurman’s traffic crash reconstructionist concluded “that the accident could have been avoided if [the pizza delivery driver’s] brakes had ‘been in good working order,’” “there is no testimony or documentary evidence regarding what effect, if any, the brake problems had on the accident.”

As is frequently becoming the case in pedestrian crossing accidents, the mental gymnastics required by these judges to absolve reckless drivers for driving over vulnerable, defenseless pedestrians is becoming ever more absurd.

A pizza delivery driver slams on his brakes – brakes that had “mechanical problems” and were operating at “less than full functionality” – and, not surprisingly, he’s unable to stop and, thus, he crashes into a woman who is trying to cross the street after getting off work from her job at a senior living center.

But it’s her fault that she got hit?

There is now a sharp divergence between real life and how real people cross the street and what is happening with how our courts are deciding these personal injury cases.

Our courts have run over the legal rights of injured Michigan pedestrians.

Why bad brakes didn’t matter for a pedestrian hit by a delivery driver while crossing the street?

After observing that the brakes on the vehicle that struck the pedestrian in Thurman had “mechanical problems” and were operating at “less than full functionality,” the Court of Appeals surprisingly gave the following reasons for why those facts weren’t important enough to let the pedestrian’s lawsuit be heard by a jury:

  • The pedestrian’s traffic crash reconstructionist “testified that without testing [the pizza delivery driver’s] vehicle—which he had not done—he could not say how the problems [with the brakes] would affect the vehicle’s stopping power.”
  • “[T]here is no evidence in the record that [the pizza delivery driver] was aware or should have been aware that his brakes were functioning at less than 100%. [He] stated that before the accident his brakes were functioning normal. He also reported that before the accident he had not heard any metal-on-metal grinding, which would indicate that his brakes needed to be repaired … Thus, even if the brake-deficiency played some role in the accident, there is no evidence that [the pizza delivery driver] was negligent in his maintenance of the brakes and should be held liable on the basis that they did not stop his vehicle before it struck Thurman.”

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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