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Lakeland Neurocare Centers v Titan Ins. Co.; (COA-UNP, 2/06/2001, RB # 2193)

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Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket No. 213167; Unpublished
Judges Smolenski, Doctoroff, and Wilder; unanimous, per curiam 
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: Not applicable, Link to Opinion alt


STATUTORY INDEXING: 
Entitlement to PIP Benefits: Arising Out of / Causation Requirement [3105(1)] 
Entitlement to PIP Benefits: Transportational Function Requirement [3105(1)]  
Exception for Unreasonably Parked Vehicles [3106(1)(a)]
Exception for Vehicle Maintenance 
Bona Fide Factual Uncertainty / Statutory Construction Defense [3148] 

TOPICAL INDEXING: 
Not applicable 


CASE SUMMARY: 
In this unanimous unpublished per curiam opinion, the Court of Appeals held that a motorcyclist who collided with a parked car that was aiding another disabled car, was entitled to no-fault benefits under the parked vehicle provisions of section 3106(1)(a).  The plaintiff in this case was operating a motorcycle in the high speed lane of the I-94 expressway.  Up ahead, a car had pulled off onto the left shoulder of the road in order to lend assistance to another vehicle that had sustained a flat tire.  The car that had parked along the shoulder was partially protruding into the travel portion of I-94.  The plaintiff motorcyclist struck the parked vehicle and in the process sustained severe injuries.  The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s ruling that the motorcyclist was entitled to no-fault benefits under section 3106(1)(a) because the vehicle that was protruding into the traveled portion of the I-94 expressway was “parked in such a way as to cause unreasonable risk of a bodily injury which occurred.”  In so holding, the Court of Appeals noted that other appellate decisions have recognized the existence of an unreasonable risk of bodily injury under the No-Fault Act in cases where a vehicle only slightly protruded into a traffic lane.  Here, the evidence was clear that at least the rear of the car was within the passing lane of I-94.

The Court of Appeals also rejected the defendant’s argument that the motorcyclist was not entitled to no-fault benefits because the parked motor vehicle was not being used “as a motor vehicle” at the time of the injury, but was rather simply being used as a barricade and a spotlight for the other vehicle that had sustained a flat tire.  This argument was based upon the Supreme Court’s decision in McKenzie v Auto Club Insurance Association [Item No.1995], wherein the Supreme Court had held that whether an injury arises out of the use of a motor vehicle “as a motor vehicle, turns on whether the injury is closely related to the transportational function of automobiles.”  In rejecting this argument, the court stated:

 “It is true that McPeters parked his car behind Johnson’s car and illuminated his headlights.  However, we conclude that such action did not take McPeters’ vehicle out of the realm of its use ‘as a motor vehicle.’  The Supreme Court has observed that merely because a car was not moving does not mean that it was not engaged in its transportational function.  Here, McPeters’ car was in use in the context of its transportational function.  McPeters stopped while traveling along the highway to aid Johnson in changing a flat tire.  The fact that he illuminated his headlights and that his car functioned as a barrier to Johnson’s car were insufficient, in our opinion, to alter the car’s use as a motor vehicle.”

The Court of Appeals also rejected the argument that there was an insufficient causal connection between the motorcyclist’s injury and the use of the parked vehicle.  The court held that it was specifically because a motor vehicle had been parked on the expressway in order to aid another motorist that directly caused the collision with the motorcyclist’s vehicle.

The Court of Appeals did not reach the issue of whether the motorcyclist’s injury arose out of “maintenance” of a motor vehicle, as it was not necessary to address that issue in the context of this case.  However, with regard to that issue, the court observed, “Indeed, no case law has addressed whether coverage extends to injuries resulting from a collision with a vehicle that was not undergoing maintenance but was merely parked while aiding in the maintenance of another vehicle.”

Finally, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s ruling denying attorney fees to plaintiff under section 3148 of the statute.  The court stated that the facts and legal arguments presented in this case created a legitimate question of statutory interpretation, and therefore, an award of attorney fees would not have been proper.


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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