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Eickhoff v Farm Bureau General Ins Co (COA - UNP; 4/18/2017; RB # 3632)


Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket # 330671; Unpublished
Judges Sawyer, Saad and Riordan; Unanimous, per curiam
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: Not Applicable; Link to Opinion

Entitlement to PIP Benefits: Transportational Function Requirement [§3105(1)]

Not Applicable

In this unanimous unpublished per curiam opinion involving whether plaintiff Scott Eickhoff (“Eickhoff”) was entitled to claim no-fault benefits after he fell to the ground while trimming trees in a basket lift attached to his truck, the Court of Appeals held that summary disposition was properly granted for defendant Farm Bureau General Insurance Company (“Farm Bureau”) because Eickoff’s injury did not occur while the truck was being used for a “transportational function” pursuant to MCL 500.3105(1).

Eickhoff injured both arms and his right hand while trimming trees, 40 feet in the air, from a basket lift that was attached to his truck, after a cable snapped and the basket fell to the ground. Prior to trimming trees, Eickhoff had parked the truck, put it in first gear, set the emergency brake and activated the downriggers on each side of the truck. Farm Bureau denied Eickhoff’s claim for no-fault benefits, asserting that under §3105(1), the truck was not being used “as a motor vehicle” at the time of his injury. Eickhoff filed this action seeking PIP benefits. At deposition, Eickhoff testified that the boom could not be operated without putting down the downriggers, and that he extended them to lift the truck’s suspension a bit, but the tires remained on the ground. Farm Bureau moved for summary disposition, arguing that benefits were unavailable because Eickhoff was not using the truck for transportational purposes at the time of the accident. In support of this argument, Farm Bureau relied on McKenzie v Auto Club Ins Ass’n, 458 Mich 214 (1998), as well as the Court of Appeals unpublished decision in Minch v Auto Owners Ins Co (Docket No. 273711). Eickhoff, however, claimed these two cases were factually distinguishable, that Drake v Citizens Ins Co of America, 270 Mich App 22 (2006) had properly criticized McKenzie, and that Minch was not binding precedent. The trial court ruled there was no distinction between the facts in plaintiff’s case and Minch, and without further explanation granted Farm Bureau’s summary disposition motion.

The Court of Appeals affirmed, finding the truck’s transportational function had no connection to plaintiff’s accident. In so holding, the Court explained that, under §3105(1), an insurer must pay PIP benefits for “accidental bodily injury arising out of the ownership, maintenance or use of a motor vehicle as a motor vehicle.” In this case, the Court said the only issue was whether plaintiff’s injury arose out of the “use of a motor vehicle as a motor vehicle.” The Court noted that, in McKenzie, the Michigan Supreme Court said the Legislature’s express requirement that the vehicle be used “as a motor vehicle” meant other occasions when a motor vehicle is used for other purposes are exempt. The Court concluded that the vehicle at issue here was not being used for a “transportational function,” and that the lower court properly granted summary disposition.

The Court of Appeals discussed Minch, although it was an unpublished decision, because the trial court relied on Minch in its ruling. Plaintiff in Minch was injured while trimming a tree after falling from a bucket attached to a boom that was permanently mounted to his truck. The Minch panel applied the McKenzie analysis and held that plaintiff’s truck was not being used as a motor vehicle at the time of his injury but was instead being used as a foundation for tree-trimming equipment. Eickhoff argued that Minch was distinguishable because plaintiff in Minch was injured by being in direct contact with equipment that was permanently mounted on his vehicle, rather than by contact with the ground after falling from the bucket. Regarding plaintiff’s argument, the Court of Appeals emphasized that the Minch panel held that §3105(1) was not satisfied in that case because the truck was being used as a foundation for tree-trimming equipment.

“While plaintiff’s truck can be used to transport him from job to job and to haul away debris, that is not how it was being used at the time of the injury. Instead, it was being used a foundation for tree-trimming equipment. Plaintiff provides no explanation why his truck, like the truck in Minch, did not lack a transportational function at the time of the accident. Therefore, we cannot find that the trial court erred in granting summary disposition ….”

The Court therefore affirmed the lower court’s holding and did not allow Eickhoff to recover PIP benefits.

Michigan auto accident attorney Stephen Sinas is the lead editor of the appellate case summaries published on this site regarding the Michigan auto insurance law. To learn more about how Stephen Sinas and how the Sinas Dramis Law Firm can help you if you have been injured in a Michigan auto accident, visit

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