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Alexander v City of Detroit (COA - UNP 11/19/2020; RB #4181)


Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket # 349320; Unpublished
Judges Gleicher, Kelly, and Shapiro; per curiam
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: Not Applicable; Link to Opinion

Entitlement to PIP Benefits: Arising Out of / Causation Requirements [§3105(1)]

Motor-Vehicle Exception to Governmental Tort Liability Act

In this unpublished per curiam opinion, the Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court’s grant of summary disposition in favor of defendant on the issue of whether plaintiff could bring a third-party negligence claim, but reversed the lower court’s holding granting summary disposition on the issue of plaintiff’s entitlement to no-fault PIP benefits as a genuine issue of material fact existed as to whether an accident had occurred.

This case arose from an incident in which plaintiff was injured while riding a Detroit Department of Transportation bus. According to plaintiff, the bus driver first tapped the brake and then slammed it, causing plaintiff to fly forward and strike a plexiglass panel. Plaintiff brought a tort action under a theory of negligence and a claim for personal protection insurance (PIP) benefits against the defendant. The defendant sought summary disposition of both claims, arguing that “government immunity barred recovery under a negligence theory and that [plaintiff] had not established either a serious impairment of an important body function or the reasonable necessity of medical treatment she received.” Plaintiff argued in response that a genuine issue of material fact precluded summary disposition of either claim.

On appeal, the Michigan Court of Appeals first considered the plaintiff’s third-party claim, noting that plaintiff was entitled to “demonstrate a triable question based on reasonable inferences flowing from her testimony. But a reasonable inference must be grounded in some provable fact.” Here, the court noted that besides the plaintiff’s own testimony, there was no evidence of negligence. Specifically, the Court noted that there was “no evidence that the stop light was changing or had changed when the bus driver applied the brake, or that the bus was speeding, or that the driver failed to stop with a reasonable distance of the traffic or the light in front of him.” Accordingly, the Court found that plaintiff’s third-party claim must fail.

However, the Michigan Court of Appeals found that the lower court had erred by dismissing plaintiff’s claim for no-fault PIP benefits. In doing so, the Court held that “when deciding a motion for summary disposition a court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.” Here, the Court noted that plaintiff “testified without equivocation that the bus made a sudden stop; that she flew forward and struck the plexiglass barrier behind the bus driver; fell into the bus’s aisle; was unable to stand without assistance; injured her back, neck and hips as a result; and subsequently sought medical care. Her medical records confirm that she related to her providers that her symptoms were triggered by what happened on the bus.” Thus, the Court found that, when viewed in the light most favorable to plaintiff, “the record establishes a genuine issue of material fact regarding whether an accident occurred,” such that plaintiff could be entitled to no-fault PIP benefits under MCL 500.3105. Accordingly, the Court of Appeals held that the trial court erred in dismissing plaintiff’s claim for no-fault PIP benefits as a matter of law.

Michigan auto accident attorney 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

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