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Ferris v. State Farm Auto. Ins. Co. (COA – UNP 3/19/2020; RB #4054)

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Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket # 345579; Unpublished
Judges Tukel, Markey, and Swartzle; Per curiam
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: Not Applicable; Link to Opinion


STATUTORY INDEXING:
Entitlement to PIP Benefits: Arising Out of / Causation Requirement [§3105(1)]
Aggravation of Preexisting Conditions [§3105(1)]

TOPICAL INDEXING:
Not Applicable


SUMMARY:
In this unanimous unpublished per curiam decision, the Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s summary disposition order dismissing the plaintiff’s first-party action to recover no-fault PIP benefits.  The Court of Appeals determined that the plaintiff, Ilene Ferris, did present sufficient evidence to create a genuine issue of material fact as to whether her injuries were caused by the underlying motor vehicle collision.

Ilene Ferris was stopped at a red light when another vehicle crashed into her.  Ferris did not claim to be injured at the scene of the collision, but went to the hospital the following day complaining of pain as a result of the collision.  Over the following months. Ferris saw two different doctors at least—the first of which concluded that Ferris’s physical complaints were entirely degenerative and unrelated to the collision; the second of which concluded that while some of Ferris’s injuries were degenerative, others “might have been flared up, caused, [or] worsened” by the collision.  The latter could not say definitively, however, that any of Ferris’s injuries were the result of the collision.  Ferris’s automobile insurer, State Farm Automobile Insurance Company, thereafter informed Ferris that it would no longer pay her PIP benefits, prompting Ferris to file a first-party complaint against State Farm for breach of contract.  The trial court ultimately granted State Farm’s motion for summary disposition, concluding that there was no genuine issue of material fact as to whether Ferris’s injuries were caused by the collision.

The Court of Appeals reversed, noting that the second doctor’s conclusions—that some of Ferris’s injuries were perhaps caused by the collision—was sufficient to create a question of fact as to causation.

Because Dr. Tarabishy opined that the medical evidence revealed physical changes and conditions that could have been the result of the accident and were not necessarily all degenerative in nature, and because the medical records reflected that plaintiff had no complaints of pain or functionality problems until after the accident, a reasonable trier of fact could logically conclude that there was a causal connection between the car accident and at least the aggravation of plaintiff’s preexisting degenerative conditions. Nothing in the plain language of MCL 500.3105(1) precludes consideration of a plaintiff’s subjective claims regarding his or her physical condition and sensations before and after a motor vehicle accident for purposes of establishing the required causal connection. And a trier of fact can assess the veracity of a claim. When Dr. Tarabishy’s opinions and views are considered in conjunction with the evidence of plaintiff’s medical history of pain and discomfort before and after the accident, all as examined in a light most favorable to plaintiff, we conclude there was sufficient evidence to create a genuine issue of material fact regarding whether plaintiff suffered bodily injuries arising out of the operation or use of a motor vehicle. As reflected by our discussion, we reach this holding without considering the letter by Dr. Tarabishy quoted in footnote 3 of this opinion and accepting Dr. Tarabishy’s deposition testimony as moderating his written statements or findings. Accordingly, we need not address plaintiff’s arguments on those matters, including her contention that Dr. Tarabishy’s deposition was a discovery-only deposition that could not be considered for purposes of summary disposition.


Lansing car accident lawyer 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 SinasDramis.com.

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