Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket #356577; Unpublished
Judges Letica, Markey, and O’Brien; Per Curiam
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: Not Applicable; Link to Opinion
Determination of Involved Vehicle [§3115(1)]
In this unanimous, unpublished, per curiam decision, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s summary disposition order in favor of Defendant Nationwide Mutual Fire Insurance Company (“Nationwide”), in Nationwide’s dispute with Defendant Geico General Insurance Company (“Geico”) over who was higher in priority for payment of Plaintiff Ashley Jones’s no-fault PIP benefits. The Court of Appeals held that Nationwide was the highest priority insurer under the pre-amendment version of MCL 500.3115(1), because the vehicle Geico insured was not “involved” in the subject motor vehicle-versus-pedestrian collision.
Ashley Jones was walking down the sidewalk when she was struck by a vehicle driven by Nicholas Bernard Anderson. Anderson was driving behind a vehicle driven by Elijah Trudell, who had come to a lawful stop in the left-turn lane as he waited for traffic to clear so he could turn into his driveway. Anderson realized he would not be able to stop in time to avoid rear-ending Trudell, so he attempted to swerve around Trudell, losing control of his vehicle as a result and clipping Trudell’s as he careened off the roadway, into Jones’s person. Neither Jones nor Anderson were insured at the time of the collision, and thus Jones filed a claim for no-fault PIP benefits with the Michigan Assigned Claims Plan (MACP). The MACP assigned Jones’s claim to Nationwide, and a priority dispute ensued between Nationwide and Geico as to who was higher in priority for payment of Jones’s benefits. The two insurers filed competing motions for summary disposition: Nationwide argued that Geico insured a vehicle that was “involved in the accident” for purposes of the pre-amendment version of MCL 500.3115(1), and thus was higher in priority than Nationwide, an assigned insurer; Geico, conversely, argued that Trudell’s vehicle was not “involved in the accident” for purposes of the no-fault act, and that Geico, therefore, was not a priority insurer at all. The trial court ultimately agreed with Geico and granted summary disposition in its favor.
The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s summary disposition order, observing, preliminarily, that in Turner v Auto Club Ins Ass’n, 448 Mich 22 (1995), the Supreme Court interpreted the phrase “involved in the accident” in the pre-amendment version of MCL 500.3115(1) to require active, not passive, contribution to a collision. In this case, then, the Court of Appeals held that Trudell’s vehicle was not “involved in the accident” because Trudell did nothing to actively contribute to the collision: he was simply stopped, lawfully, for approximately ten seconds as he waited to turn left into his driveway, when Anderson clipped the rear of his vehicle in an attempt to avoid rear-ending him.
“On the basis of this caselaw interpreting the phrase ‘involved in the accident,’ we have little difficulty concluding that Trudell’s vehicle was not involved in the accident that injured plaintiff. Trudell’s vehicle was stopped for about 10 seconds waiting to turn, then was struck by Anderson’s vehicle. Nationwide points only to the fact that Trudell’s vehicle was hit in arguing that it actively contributed to the accident; Nationwide points to nothing that Trudell’s vehicle actually did to contribute to the accident. This is because Trudell’s vehicle did not do anything; it was not moving and was otherwise inactive—waiting about 10 seconds to turn—until it was hit by Anderson’s vehicle. Accordingly, Trudell’s vehicle was not ‘involved in the accident’ under the no-fault act because it did nothing that actively contributed to the happening of the accident beyond its mere presence. See Detroit Med Ctr, 302 Mich App at 398-399.”