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State Farm Mut Auto Ins Co v Protective Ins Co (COA – UNP 12/21/2021; RB #4372)   

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Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket #355532; Unpublished  
Judges Cavanagh, Servitto, and Kelly; Per Curiam 
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: Not Applicable; Link to Opinion


STATUTORY INDEXING: 
Exception for Motorcycle Injuries [§3114(5)]
Determination of Involved Vehicle [§3114(5)]
Penalty Attorney Fees Between Insurers [§3148]

TOPICAL INDEXING: 
Insurer Equal Priority Reimbursement [No-Fault Insurer Claims for Reimbursement]


SUMMARY: 
In this unanimous unpublished per curiam decision, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s summary disposition order in favor of Plaintiff State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company (“State Farm”), in State Farm’s action for reimbursement from Defendant Protective Insurance Company (“Protective”) for half the total amount of no-fault PIP benefits State Farm paid to a motorcyclist, Robert Rader, after Rader was injured in a crash involving two motor vehicles.  The Court of Appeals held that a vehicle driven by Protective’s insured, which was passively stopped at a red light at the time of the crash, was “involved” in the crash for purposes of MCL 500.3114(5), because Rader’s body was thrown against it after Rader first crashed into a separate vehicle, insured by State Farm.  Therefore, the Court held that Protective and State Farm were equal priority insurers under MCL 500.3114(5), and that Protective was responsible for half of Rader’s PIP benefits.

Robert Rader was driving his motorcycle when he ran a red light and crashed into a motor vehicle insured by State Farm.  As a result of the impact, Rader was ejected from the motorcycle and slammed into another vehicle, a FedEx van, insured by Protective.  After State Farm paid more than one million dollars in PIP benefits to Rader, it filed the instant action against Protective, arguing that it was entitled to reimbursement for half the benefits it paid to Rader because the FedEx van was “involved” in the accident for purposes of the no-fault act, and therefore equal in priority to State Farm.  Protective argued that because the vehicle it insured played a passive—not an active—role in the accident, it was not “involved” in the accident.  The trial court agreed with State Farm, granting summary disposition in State Farm’s favor.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s summary disposition order, holding that, because there was contact between Rader’s body and the FedEx van, the FedEx van was involved in the accident.  In arguing to the contrary, Protective erroneously relied on a line of cases which discuss active involvement in the context of single-vehicle crashes that occur because of some action taken by the driver of another vehicle, but in which no physical contact is ever made between the two vehicles.  

“Defendant confuses two similar, yet distinct, lines of cases under the no-fault act regarding whether a vehicle was involved in an accident. Defendant relies on a line of cases that have a particular context for the phrase ‘involved in the accident’—cases in which a first vehicle takes some action which causes a second vehicle to react without contacting it, and as a result that second vehicle has a one-vehicle accident or collides with a person or a third vehicle. Detroit Med Ctr v Progressive Mich Ins Co, 302 Mich App 392, 398; 838 NW2d 910 (2013). Under such circumstances, to be involved in an accident, a vehicle must take some action which causes another vehicle to react and cause a collision. Id. A vehicle is passive and not involved in an accident when the second vehicle’s driver needlessly reacts or overreacts, causing the collision. Id.” 

The Court of Appeals observed that, in Turner v Auto Club Ins Ass’n, 448 Mich 22 (1995), it held that the active involvement test “is only required for liability ‘when there is no physical contact between the injured party and the vehicle,’ ” and, moreover, that, “[r]egardless of a vehicle’s fault in contributing to a collision or its lack of movement during an accident, a vehicle becomes involved in an accident when it is struck by an accident victim.”  Additionally, in Auto Club Ins Ass’n v State Auto Mut Ins Co, 258 Mich App 328 (2003), the Court held “that there are no cases suggesting ‘that a vehicle that actually collided with the injured person . . . was not ‘involved’ in the accident.’ ”  Thus, based on this case law, and despite there being no case law contemplating this exact scenario, the Court held that the FedEx van was involved in the accident.

“Applying the above to this case, it is apparent that the FedEx van was involved in the accident and defendant is liable for half of Rader’s PIP benefits. It is undisputed that Rader was ejected from his motorcycle and his body collided with the FedEx van. An analysis of whether the FedEx van had an active or passive role in the accident is inapplicable because there was contact between the FedEx van and Rader’s body. Under Auto Club Ins Ass’n, the contact between Rader’s body and the FedEx van means the FedEx van was involved in the accident. Thus, defendant is liable for half of Rader’s PIP benefits under MCL 500.3114(5). The trial court therefore did not err when it concluded the FedEx van was involved in the accident as a matter of law and granted summary disposition in favor of plaintiff.” 

The Court of Appeals further held that the trial court did not err in ordering Protective to pay State Farm’s attorney fees under MCL 500.3148(1), because Protective’s argument in support of its refusal to pay half Rader’s PIP benefits was based on an interpretation of the no-fault act that was not supported by the statute.  Therefore, the trial court did not plainly err in determining that Protective’s refusal was unreasonable.


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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