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Smith v Benjamin, Corbidge Automotive and State Farm Insurance Company; (COA-UNP, 10/4/2005, RB #2614)


Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket #262445; Unpublished
Judges Bandstra, Neff, and Donofrio; unanimous; per curiam
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: Not applicable, Link to Opinion

Serious Impairment of Body Function Definition (Kreiner Era - 1996-2010) [3135(7)]
Causation Issues [3135]

Not applicable

In this unanimous unpublished per curiam, decided without oral argument after the Supreme Court’s decision in Kreiner v Fischer [RB #2428], interpreting the statutory definition of serious body function, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s order granting summary disposition in favor of defendants on plaintiff’s claim for non-economic loss and on the issue of whether plaintiff’s injuries were caused by the motor vehicle accident.

Plaintiff Leddrew Smith was involved in an automobile accident on February 9, 2001. He complained of neck and right shoulder discomfort and low back pain. His treating physician, Dr. Peter Yu, initially confirmed the accident did cause the plaintiff’s injuries. State Farm paid PIP benefits for approximately three years, but then discontinued those benefits after an independent medical examination. This action was brought for both non-economic damages against the party who caused the accident under §3135 and to compel State Farm to pay PIP benefits.

The plaintiff testified in his initial deposition that “he could not recall” whether he suffered a previous injury to his back or shoulder. However, medical records revealed he had treated with a chiropractor for a period of four years for neck, shoulder, and back complaints on more than 15 occasions between April, 1997 and August, 2000. Plaintiff’s physician, Dr. Yu, testified at his deposition that this previous history, of which he had been unaware, created a “cloud” on the issue of causation. The trial court held plaintiff had failed to carry his burden of proof with respect to causation and the existence of a threshold injury.

In affirming the trial court, the Court of Appeals held that on a motion for summary disposition the moving party must specifically identify the undisputed factual issues. If the moving party carries its burden, the party opposing the motion must demonstrate, with admissible evidence, a genuine and material issue of disputed fact exists, otherwise summary disposition is properly granted. To show causation here, plaintiff was required to prove by a preponderance of the evidence the Leddrew Smith’s neck, shoulder, and back conditions arose out of the injuries he sustained in the 2001 accident. Other than presenting evidence of the accident itself, plaintiff failed to present any substantive evidence from which to find Leddrew Smith’s injuries were caused or exacerbated by the 2001 accident. Dr. Yu could not opine that any of Leddrew Smith’s injuries were caused by the accident. Dr. Yu’s initial statements could not be said to establish a causal connection where they were contradicted by subsequent statements. Therefore, having failed to meet his burden concerning causation, the trial court did not err when it granted summary disposition to defendants.

Although the court did not reach the issue of whether Leddrew Smith’s injuries met the threshold requirement of §3135, it noted it was in general agreement with the trial court’s conclusion on this issue.

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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