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Schichtel v Hastings Mutual Insurance; (COA-UNP, 8/3/2001, RB #2234)

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Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket #220798; Unpublished   
Judges Markey, Talbot and Owens; unanimous; per curiam    
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: Not applicable, Link to Opinion


STATUTORY INDEXING:   
Entitlement to PIP Benefits: Arising Out of / Causation Requirement [3105(1)]
     
Entitlement to PIP Benefits: Transportational Function Requirement [3105(1)]  
Exclusions for Vehicles Considered Parked [3106(1)] 
General / Miscellaneous

TOPICAL INDEXING:
Not applicable


CASE SUMMARY:  
In this unanimous unpublished per curiam opinion, the Court of Appeals upheld a jury verdict finding that plaintiff’s asphyxiation death in his garage through the inhalation of vehicle exhaust fumes gave rise to no-fault survivors’ benefits, and that those benefits were not precluded by the parked vehicle exclusion contained in 3106 of the statute, nor were they excluded by the provisions of 3105(1), which requires that the injury arise from the operation or use of a motor vehicle as a motor vehicle.

Plaintiff’s decedent and his 15-year old son attended a party where plaintiff’s decedent consumed alcoholic beverages. They returned home late at night, and upon arrival at their home, backed the vehicle into the garage, closed the garage door and turned off the engine. Plaintiff’s decedent requested that the keys be left in the ignition, and he remained in the vehicle while his son went into the house and went to bed. The decedent was found the following morning in the garage with the door closed and the truck running. He died from inhalation of fumes.

The Court of Appeals addressed the issue of the parked vehicle exclusion of the No-Fault Act contained in section 3106 which provides that accidental injury does not arise out of the ownership, operation, maintenance or use of a parked vehicle as a motor vehicle, unless one of the exceptions applies. The applicable exception is 3106(c), which would provide coverage if the injury was “sustained by a person while occupying, entering into, or alighting from the vehicle.”

However, in order to recover no-fault benefits for injuries involving a parked vehicle, a claimant must demonstrate:

(1) that his conduct fits one of the three exceptions of subsection 3106(1);

(2) the injury arose out of the ownership, operation, maintenance or use of the parked motor vehicle as a motor vehicle; and

(3) the injury had a causal relationship to the parked motor vehicle that is more than incidental, fortuitous or but for.

In McKenzie v Auto Club Insurance Association, 458 Mich 214 (1998) [Item No. 1995], the Supreme Court held that “whether an injury arises out of the use of a motor vehicle ‘as a motor vehicle’ under 3105 turns on whether the injury is closely related to the transportational function of motor vehicles.”

Hastings Mutual argued at trial that there was no genuine issue of material fact that the death did not arise out of the use of a motor vehicle as a motor vehicle, as required by 3105(1). Defendant contended that the decedent was using the truck for any one of several possible purposes, none of which qualified as a transportational function.

In upholding the jury verdict, the Court of Appeals held that the evidence suggested that the decedent turned the ignition on for any number of possible reasons, but that one of those reasons included the use of the vehicle for its transportational function. Although a plausible argument existed that the other possible reasons included heat or to listen to the radio, in light of the conflicting evidence on the question of intention as it relates to use of the motor vehicle, the trial court correctly denied Hastings’ motion for summary disposition. Further, reasonable minds could differ regarding whether the injury arose from the use of the motor vehicle as a motor vehicle, and therefore, the jury’s verdict was upheld.


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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