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Coulter v. Auto Club Ins. Assoc. (COA – UNP 8/13/2019; RB #3955)

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Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket # 343868; Published
Judges O’Brien, Fort Hood, and Cameron; per curiam
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: Not Applicable; Link to Opinion; Link to Dissent


STATUTORY INDEXING:
Entitlement to PIP Benefits: Arising Out of/Causation Requirement [§3105(1)]
Entitlement to PIP Benefits: Transportational Function Requirement [§3105(1)]
Entitlement to PIP Benefits: Motor Vehicle Involvement [§3105(1)]

TOPICAL INDEXING:
Not Applicable


SUMMARY:
In this majority unpublished per curiam decision (Justice Fort Hood, dissenting) invoving a claim for no-fault PIP benefits, the Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s denial of the defendant’s motion for summary disposition, because the plaintiff’s injuries did not arise out of the ownership, operation, maintenance, or use of a motor vehicle as a motor vehicle.  The plaintiff was outside of his vehicle, at a loading dock, when a garage door fell on his head and injured him.

The plaintiff was volunteering for a charity organization when he was tasked with using the charity’s box truck to pick up a pallet of donated canned goods from a local Walmart.  The plaintiff arrived at the Walmart loading dock, exited his vehicle, and was injured when a Walmart employee inadvertently closed a garage door on his head.  The plaintiff filed this action to recover no-fault PIP benefits which the defendant refused to pay.  The defendant moved for summary disposition, arguing that the plaintiff’s injuries did not arise out of the ownership, operation, maintenance, or use of a motor vehicle as a motor vehicle.  The trial court disagreed and dismissed the defendant’s motion.

The Court of Appeals reversed, finding that the plaintiff’s injury was not caused by his use of the box truck as a motor vehicle.  His injuries occurred irrespective of the box truck and its transportational function.

We conclude that, like in Mueller and Morosini, the causal connection between plaintiff’s injury and the use of the box truck as a motor vehicle was not more than incidental, fortuitous, or but for. Plaintiff was not involved in a motor vehicle accident; he was not injured while physically loading or unloading the box truck; nor was he injured by any item that was being transported by the box truck. Cf Walega v Walega, 312 Mich App 259, 268; 877 NW2d 910 (2015) (holding that the requisite nexus between the plaintiff’s injury and the transportational function of the motor vehicle was met where a safe, being transported by the vehicle, fell on the plaintiff’s leg); Drake v Citizens Ins Co, 270 Mich App 22, 26; 715 NW2d 387 (2006) (holding that the plaintiff’s injury, sustained while he was helping the delivery truck’s driver unclog the truck’s auger system so that the feed delivered by the truck could be dropped into a silo, was closely related to the vehicle’s transportational purposes). Rather, plaintiff was injured when a Walmart employee pulled the cord for the garage door and the garage door hit his head. Thus, like the bullet in Mueller or the other driver in Morosini, the garage door was a force independent of the box truck and its transportational function.3 That the box truck was being used as a motor vehicle at the time of plaintiff’s injury was not more than incidental, fortuitous, or but for.

Justice Fort Hood dissented, arguing that the plaintiff was engaging in an activity closely related to the transportational function of the box truck at the time of his injuries.  He had been using the box truck as a delivery truck at the time of his accident, and was in the process of a pick-up when the garage door fell on his head.

In this case, plaintiff testified at his deposition that his injury occurred while he and Ybarra were engaged in the transportation of pallets of donated canned goods. Plaintiff and Ybarra were utilizing a delivery truck as a delivery truck. It is my opinion that the activity plaintiff was engaged in at the time of his injury—facilitating the pick-up and delivery of charitable goods—was closely related to the transportational function of the box truck at issue.


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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