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Auto-Owners v ACIA; (COA-UNP, 2/24/2011; RB #3164)

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Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket #295123; Unpublished  
Judges Saad, K.F. Kelly, Gleicher, and Donofrio; unanimous: per curiam 
Official Michigan Reporter Citation:  Not applicable, Link to Opinion 


STATUTORY INDEXING: 
Determination of Involved Vehicle [3111] 
Determination of Involved Vehicle [3113] 
Exception for Motorcycle Injuries [§3114(5)] 
Determination of Involved Vehicle [3114] 
Determination of Involved Vehicle [3115] 
Determination of Involved Vehicle [3125] 

TOPICAL INDEXING: 
Not Applicable 


CASE SUMMARY: 
In this unanimous unpublished per curiam opinion, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s conclusion that a question of fact requiring jury determination existed in this priority dispute case wherein the central issue was determining what motor vehicles were “involved” in the subject accident which caused injury to a motorcycle operator and passenger so it could be decided what insurer had priority responsibility to pay PIP benefits to the injured motorcyclist under the provisions of §3114(5). The facts in this case are somewhat confusing. Two people riding on a motorcycle sustained injury when the motorcycle rear-ended a motor vehicle driven by Jessica Borsum. Borsum was driving her vehicle behind a red vehicle which was driving behind another vehicle driven by Mr. Allen, which was driving behind a truck pulling a fishing boat. Apparently Mr. Allen was slowing his vehicle because of traffic conditions ahead when he was rear-ended by the red car, and then Borsum rear-ended the red car moments before the motorcycle rear-ended Borsum’s vehicle. The primary question was whether Mr. Allen’s vehicle was “involved” in the accident.

In determining the meaning of the word “involved” as used in the priority provisions of §3114(5), the Court stated the following:

“The term ‘involved in the accident’ is used in sections 3111, 3113, 3115, and 3125 of the no-fault act, but is not defined by the no-fault act. This Court has held that the phrase ‘involved in the accident’ should be consistently construed throughout the no-fault act. … Generally speaking, it is presumed that physical contact between the injured party and a vehicle means that vehicle was involved in the accident pursuant to MCL 500.3114(5). … Therefore, to determine whether a vehicle was involved in an accident pursuant to MCL 500.3114(5), the Turner1 test is necessary only when there is no physical contact between the injured party and another vehicle that is somehow a part of the collision. … The Turner test provides:

'for a vehicle to be considered ‘involved in the accident’ … the motor vehicle, being operated or used as a motor vehicle, must actively, as opposed to passively, contribute to the accident. Showing a mere ‘but for’ connection between the operation or use of the motor vehicle and the damage is not enough to establish that the vehicle is ‘involved in the accident.’ Moreover, physical contact is not required to establish that the vehicle was ‘involved in the accident,’ nor is fault a relevant consideration in the determination whether a vehicle is ‘involved in an accident.’’ …

Michigan law provides that when a legally stopped vehicle is struck after two other vehicles collide with each other, the stopped vehicle did not actively contribute to the collision, and thus, it is not actively involved in the accident. … However, case law also provides that when a vehicle suddenly brakes and causes a collision between two vehicles behind it, its sudden braking does actively contribute to the collision between the two other vehicles behind it, and thus, it is actively involved in the accident. … Here, the trial judge properly held that there was a question of fact about whether Mr. Allen gradually or suddenly activated the brakes on his vehicle. Thus, the trial court properly left this question for the jury to decide. …”


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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