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Blevins v Abraitis and Hastings Mutual Insurance Company and Simmons; (COA-UNP, 8/25/2005, RB #2596)


Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket #252947; Unpublished
Judges Cooper, Bandstra, and Kelly; unanimous; per curiam
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: Not applicable, Link to Opinion

Serious Impairment of Body Function Definition (Kreiner Era - 1996-2010) [3135(7)]
Noneconomic Loss Liability of Uninsured Tortfeasors [3135(1)(3)]
Causation Issues [3135]

Not applicable

In this unanimous unpublished per curiam opinion, the Court of Appeals reversed and remanded for further proceedings, a determination by the trial court granting summary disposition in favor of the defendants on the issue of whether plaintiff’s claim for excess economic work loss damages was required to satisfy the serious impairment of body function threshold contained in §3135 of the No-Fault Act. The court also reversed and remanded the trial court grant of summary disposition on the issue of whether plaintiff’s exacerbation injuries of her back were causally related to the motor vehicle accident.

Plaintiff sustained injuries in a motor vehicle accident described in the opinion as exacerbation of a pre-existing back injuries. Plaintiff’s doctor indicated the accident “certainly exacerbated” those pre-existing back injuries. The insurance company doctor characterized the injuries as “old in nature” and it was unclear whether a direct cause and effect relationship existed between the accident and plaintiff’s current condition.

After granting summary disposition in this case on the issue of whether plaintiff’s injury satisfied the tort threshold under §3135(1) of the No-Fault Act, the trial court also granted summary disposition on plaintiff’s claim for excess work loss damages under §3135(3)(c) as well.

In reversing the trial court grant of summary disposition, the Court of Appeals held the excess economic work loss provisions of the Act contained in §3135(3)(c) did not require proof that injuries meet the threshold requirements of §3135. Accordingly, the trial court grant of summary disposition in favor of defendants on her claim for excess economic work loss damages was error and the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings.

The court also addressed the trial court’s determination that plaintiff’s work loss damages, due to exacerbation of her pre-existing back condition, were not proximately caused by the accident. In reversing the trial court determination on this issue, the Court of Appeals held, “a plaintiff must prove that the defendant’s conduct was both a cause in fact and a legal cause of her injuries.” However, the Michigan Supreme Court has held “regardless of the preexisting condition, recovery is allowed if the trauma caused by the accident triggered symptoms from that condition.” Wilkinson v Lee, 463 Mich 388 (2000). Therefore, the court held a jury could have believed the opinion of plaintiff’s doctor, rejected the contrary opinion of the defendants’ doctor, and concluded the accident did cause plaintiff’s injuries. Further, as was noted in Wilkinson, supra, the “defendant takes the plaintiff as he finds her, including a susceptibility to injury resulting from preexisting back conditions.”

It should be noted plaintiff did not challenge on appeal the trial court’s determination she had not sustained a serious impairment of body function.

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