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McKinney v Griffin (COA – UNP; 11/19/2020; RB #4183)


Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket # 350354
Judges Jansen, Fort Hood, and Ronayne Krause
Official Michigan Reporter Citation; Not Applicable; Link to Opinion

Serious Impairment of Body Function Definition (McCormick Era: 2010 – present) [§3135(5)**]

Not Applicable

A. Disposition:
In this unanimous per curiam unpublished opinion, summary disposition for defendant was AFFIRMED by the Court of Appeals because the plaintiff failed to present sufficient evidence that she suffered an objectively manifested impairment.

B. Nature of Injury/Disability:
The plaintiff in this case was injured when she was riding as a passenger in her friend’s car when her friend ran a red light and struck a vehicle. Plaintiff reported having back pain, was shaking, and had an extreme headache. Plaintiff ultimately claimed that she sustained injuries to her neck, lower back, right leg, and both shoulders. Plaintiff ultimately did not miss any work from the accident, but she claimed that as a result of the accident, she could “no longer walk long distances because of the pain in her lower back and right leg. Plaintiff’s back pain also restricts her from driving long distances. Because of the pain in her right shoulder, plaintiff has difficulty typing and she is restricted from lifting more than 10 pounds. Plaintiff also stated she cannot wear high heeled shoes anymore because of her right leg pain and the clothes she wears ‘have to be stretchy so [she] can get them over [her] arm and get them over her head[.]’ Plaintiff stated she is not prescribed any pain medications for her injuries and that she takes Aleve as needed.”

C. Medical Treatment:
On the day of the accident, plaintiff was treated at Hurley Medical Center. A report from Hurley Medical Center indicated that “physical exam reveals no evidence of traumatic injuries,” and “determined that any imaging or scans of plaintiff’s shoulders and back were unnecessary.” Plaintiff was treated with Tylenol and ibuprofen and discharged home in stable condition. Three days later, plaintiff was seen by her primary care physician who noted “no joint pain, redness or swelling. No back pain. No numbness, tingling or weakness in any of the extremities.” Subsequent evaluations at her primary care physician’s office reported that “plaintiff’s muscles, spine, and joints were normal.” Plaintiff was also treated by Procare Injury and Rehab Centers for shoulder pain and right hip pain. The Court found it significant that “none of the reports contain a statement from any of the treating physicians indicating that plaintiff sustained a specific injury from the accident.” MRIs were then taken of plaintiff’s shoulders and lumbar spine, but “do not relate any of plaintiff’s injuries to the accident.” The MRI did show that plaintiff’s right shoulder had a “patrial thickness tear undersurface of the distal rotator cuff tendon,” a “grade 2 SLAP tear of the glenoid labrum,” and “AC degenerative change with mild impingement on the distal supraspinatus.” An MRI of plaintiff’s spine showed “no disc herniation, and mild facet changes posteriorly however at L3-LF, L4-L5 and L5-S1.” However, “the MRI reports do not state that any of the irregularities were caused by the automobile accident or any type of trauma.” IME doctor, Dr. Drouillard, reviewed said MRIs and determined that “the MRIs of plaintiff’s shoulders only showed degenerative changes and did not indicate any ‘acute traumatic injury.’” Plaintiff also treated at Procare and was given disability certificates in May 2018, June 2018, and August 2018, restricting her from lifting more than 10 pounds and doing housework, yet the disability certificates did not specify that her auto accident was the cause of her injuries.

D. Element #1 – Objective Manifestation:
The Court did not discuss this element in detail.

E. Element #2 – Important Body Function:
The Court did not discuss this element in detail.

F. Element #3 – General Ability:
The Court did not discuss this element in detail.

G. Additional Comments:
In finding that the plaintiff failed to demonstrate a serious impairment of body function, the Court did not specifically analyze any of the three elements, and the Court’s opinion makes it clear that its disposition of the case was predicated on a lack of causation. In this regard, the Court stated, “We conclude that the trial court did not err in determining that plaintiff failed to demonstrate a serious impairment of a body function as a result of the accident. Plaintiff has established a question of fact whether she suffered from greater impairments now than she did before the accident. However, as discussed, the only evidence causally linking those greater impairments to the accident are plausible inferences, which is insufficient to overcome Dr. Drouillard’s expert medical testimony that any injury to plaintiff’s shoulders and back are not the result of the accident. Although plaintiff’s MRI diagnostic reports document some anomalies and injuries, plaintiff has provided no medical diagnosis or documentation linking those findings to the accident. Accordingly, the trial court correctly determined there was no genuine issue of material fact regarding plaintiff’s ability to demonstrate that she suffered an objectively manifested impairment arising from the April 24, 2017 automobile accident.”

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