Safely Driving a Grader on Public Roads Requires Judgment

In the recent case of Holman vs. Town of Washburn involving an accident between a min-van and a town grader which was scraping ice from an intersection, the grader driver was entitled to governmental immunity.

The mini-van ran into the grader broadside, after it couldn’t stop and slid on an icy road.  The plaintiffs argued that certain statutes created an absolute duty to drive safely.  However the court said that the statute does not require that a driver take some certain and specific action, but instead requires judgment and discretion on the part of drivers.

Although there was some argument about what had actually occurred in the accident, the actual facts of the accident were not critical to the court’s decision.  Instead, the issue revolved around the ministerial duty exception to government immunity.  The court stated “A duty is ministerial, as opposed to discretionary, if it is absolute, certain and imperative, involving merely the performance of a specific task when the law imposes, prescribes and defines the time, mode and occasion for its performance with such certainty that nothing remains for judgment or discretion.”  (Internal quotation marks omitted).

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