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Amerisure Mutual Insurance Company v State Farm Mutual Auto Insurance Company; (COA-UNP, 4/19/2005, RB #2547)

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Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket #251279; Unpublished
Judges Kelly, Sawyer and Wilder; unanimous; per curiam
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: Not applicable, Link to Opinion courthouse graphic


STATUTORY INDEXING:
Exception for Employer Provided Vehicles [3114(3)]

TOPICAL INDEXING:
Not applicable


CASE SUMMARY:
In this unanimous unpublished per curiam opinion decided without oral argument, the Court of Appeals ruled that plaintiff Amerisure, the no-fault insurer of a vehicle owned by Clayton Keene’s employer in which the Keene family was traveling when they were injured in an accident, had priority over defendant State Farm who was the no-fault insurer for Keene’s personal vehicles, even though the employer’s vehicle was being driven for personal use at the time of the accident. Clayton Keene was the pastor of the Northwest Church of God when he and his family were injured in an accident while traveling in a van owned by the church and insured by plaintiff. After plaintiff paid the Keene family’s PIP benefits, it sought a declaration that it was entitled to reimbursement from defendant. In finding the trial court properly granted defendant summary disposition, the Court of Appeals held that under MCL 500.3114(3), the insurer of a motor vehicle owned by an employer is liable for injuries sustained by an employee or the employee’s family even if the vehicle is not used in the course of the employee’s employment when the injuries occurred. In this regard, the court stated:

MCL 500.3114(3) applies to ‘any situation in which an employee is injured while occupying a vehicle owned by his employer, regardless of whether the injury occurred in the course of his employment.’ . . . Accordingly, Amerisure’s argument that MCL 500.3114(3) requires that an employer furnish the vehicle to an employee in furtherance of the business of the employer is without merit.”

The Court of Appeals also rejected plaintiff’s argument that Keene was not an employee of Northwest Church of God based on the economic reality test. In this regard, the court stated:

Although the totality of the circumstances are considered, in applying the economic realities test, the courts generally consider the following four factors: (1) control of a workers’ duties, (2) payment of wages, (3) the right to hire and fire and the right to discipline, and (4) performance of duties as an integral part of the employer’s business towards the accomplishment of a common goal. . . . Viewing the elements as a whole and in relationship to the realities of the work performed, the trial court did not err in concluding that Keene was an employee of the Northwest Church of God. The first factor of the economic reality test supports the finding of an employer-employee relationship. Although Keene . . . had complete discretion in determining how much time a week he spent executing his duties, Keene’s duties and responsibilities as pastor of the Northwest Church of God were clearly defined. The second factor similarly supports this finding. Keene and Gray agreed that the $600 a month Keene received was determined by the role Keene played in church business. Regarding the third factor, Keene testified that he was hired by the consensus of the church membership and that, if he were not performing his duties as pastor, the church’s board would meet with him and act accordingly. The final factor also strongly supports an employer-employee relationship. Keene’s performance of his duties, ministering Sunday services, teaching Sunday school, performing weddings and funerals, and visiting the elderly and the sick, was an integral part of the Northwest Church of God’s regular business and a contribution to the accomplishment of a common objective. . . . Upon review of the totality of the circumstances surrounding Keene’s work, the trial court properly concluded that the Northwest Church of God was his employer for purposes of the no-fault act. Therefore, the trial court properly granted summary disposition in favor of State Farm.”


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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