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Graves v. Collier, et al. (COA – UNP 10/22/2020; RB #4167)

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Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket # 350131; Unpublished
Judges Swarrtzle, Jansen, and Borrello; Per Curiam
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: Not Applicable; Link to Opinion


STATUTORY INDEXING:
Compulsory Insurance Requirements for Owners or Registrants of Motor Vehicles Required to Be Registered [§3101(1)]
Exception for Entering Into or Alighting From [§3106(1)(c)]
Determination of Involved Vehicle [§3113(b)]
Persons Disqualified from Receiving Benefits Through the Assigned Claims Facility [§3173]

TOPICAL INDEXING:
Not Applicable


SUMMARY:
In this unanimous unpublished per curiam decision, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s summary disposition in favor of defendant Michigan Automobile Insurance Placement Facility.  The Court of Appeals held that the trial court did not err in determining that the plaintiff’s claim for no-fault PIP benefits through the MAIPF was ineligible for assignment in light of the plaintiff’s failure to maintain insurance on her vehicle at the time of the subject crash.

Canisha Graves was struck by a vehicle driven by Defendant Kyara Collier.  Moments before the collision, Graves had parallel parked behind Collier, exited the vehicle, and then ran back to the vehicle upon seeing Collier get back into her car.  Graves opened the driver’s side door to her vehicle, but before she could get in, Collier backed into her, pinning her arms and legs between the door and her vehicle.  Graves applied for no-fault PIP benefits through the MAIPF, but the MAIPF declined to assign her claim, prompting Graves to file the underlying first-party action against the MAIPF.  The MAIPF moved for summary disposition, arguing that Graves’s claim was not eligible for assignment because she failed to maintain effective security on her vehicle at the time of the collision.  Graves argued in response that, because she was not actually operating or driving her vehicle at the time of the collision, the requirement that she maintain effective security no longer applied. Ultimately, the trial court granted the MAIPF’s motion,

“finding there was uncontroverted evidence plaintiff intended to operate her vehicle when she parked it, and there was no genuine issue of material fact that plaintiff was driving her uninsured vehicle on the day of the accident. Therefore, plaintiff was required to maintain the requisite security on her vehicle, concluding her injuries on reentry into the vehicle were directly related to the vehicle’s character and use.”

The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s summary disposition order in favor of the MAIPF, and disagreed with Graves’s contention that her obligation to maintain effective security expired the moment she parked and exited her vehicle.  Rather, the Courtheld that “the driving period in MCL 500.3101(1) refers to any time the owner of the vehicle expects and intends the vehicle to be driven or moved on a highway on demand.”

We conclude that the trial court did not err in finding MCL 500.3101(1) required plaintiff to maintain security on her vehicle. Plaintiff contends she was not required to maintain security on her vehicle at the time of the accident because it was turned off and parked. However, plaintiff’s interpretation of the security requirement would effectively rewrite the statute to mean security is only required while the motor vehicle is actually being driven or moved on the highway. We decline to accept plaintiff’s interpretation, and instead conclude that the driving period in MCL 500.3101(1) refers to any time the owner of the vehicle expects and intends the vehicle to be driven or moved on a highway on demand. In this case, plaintiff’s testimony established that she ran to her vehicle and opened the driver’s side door with the intention of getting inside and leaving. Thus, plaintiff was required to comply with the security requirement found in MCL 500.3101(1).

The Court of Appeals also rejected Graves’s contention that “MCL 500.3113(b), which would preclude her from recovering benefits due to her failure to comply with MCL 500.3101(1), is not applicable because her vehicle was parked when the accident occurred and not involved in the accident.”  The Court of Appeals held that Graves’s actions of opening the door and attempting to enter the vehicle “actively contributed to the occurrence of the accident,” and that her vehicle was, therefore, "involved in the accident” for purposes of MCL 500.3113(b).

We conclude that under MCL 500.3113(b), plaintiff was indeed precluded from recovering PIP benefits. Plaintiff contends she was only a few feet away from her vehicle when the sudden actions of Collier and her sister prompted her to run back to her parked vehicle. As plaintiff stood on the edge of the street near her driver’s side door, she saw Collier’s vehicle rapidly coming toward her. To avoid being run-over by Collier’s vehicle, plaintiff sought shelter in her vehicle: plaintiff opened the door and attempted to get inside. Before plaintiff could get into the driver’s seat, Collier’s vehicle collided with the open door, pinning plaintiff between the door her vehicle. Plaintiff’s use of the vehicle as a safety barrier does not change the vehicle’s involvement in the accident for purposes of MCL 500.3113(b). By opening the car door and attempting to enter her vehicle, plaintiff actively contributed to the occurrence of the accident. Plaintiff’s vehicle had more than a “random association with the accident scene” and, instead, actively contributed to the accident and plaintiff’s injuries. Detroit Med Ctr, 302 Mich App at 396. Therefore, plaintiff was precluded from no-fault benefits under MCL 500.3113(b).

Lastly, the Court of Appeals held that Graves could not avail herself of the parked vehicle exclusion found in MCL 500.3106(1)(c), because she had actually opened the door of her vehicle and was intending on entering her vehicle at the time of the collision.

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