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Michigan Court of Appeals: Runner’s suit against cross-country coach can proceed

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (10/27/17)

LANSING, MI – The Michigan Court of Appeals (“COA”) has ruled in favor of a student whose family sued his high school cross-country coach after he was hit by a car during practice. The COA had previously ruled that the Defendant, Coach Eric Swager, was entitled to governmental immunity. Johnson Law, PLC, the firm representing Ray, appealed to the Michigan Supreme Court (“MSC”).  The Supreme Court vacated the COA’s opinion, stating that the COA had erred in their decision by not considering all the necessary questions and for misinterpreting the term “proximate cause.” The MSC sent the case back to the COA to conduct the proper analysis. Now, in its decision published October 24, 2017, (No. 322766, Washtenaw Circuit Court, LC No. 12-001337-NI) the COA has ruled that Swager is not entitled to dismissal based on governmental immunity, meaning the case will proceed to trial in Washtenaw Circuit Court.

This opinion, along with that of the Michigan Supreme Court, increases the likelihood that a person injured by a government employee will be able to have their case heard by a jury. Attorney Ven Johnson stated, “Not only does this decision help our client, but others who have been injured and told they can’t sue because the defendant has governmental immunity. No one should be above the law. If a government employee causes harm to another individual they should be held responsible, just as you or I would.”

Ray was a 13-year-old member of the Chelsea High School cross country team in 2011 when he was struck by a car after Swager instructed the team to cross an intersection with a “do not walk” symbol. Ray sustained a severe traumatic brain injury and was partially paralyzed by the accident. Johnson stated, “Kersch’s life has been changed forever. It’s taken six years, but finally he’ll get his day in court.” 

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Kersch Ray graduated from Chelsea High School last year. Learn more about his story here.

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