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House v Farm Bureau Mut Ins Co, et al; (COA-UNP, 02/15/13; RB #____)

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Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket #301152; Unpublished  
Judges Owens, Fitzgerald, and Riordan; Unanimous; Per Curiam;
Official Michigan Reporter Citation:  Not Applicable; Link to Opinion alt   


STATUTORY INDEXING:   
Entitlement  to No-Fault PIP Benefits: Bodily Injury Requirement [§3105(1)] 
Entitlement  to PIP Benefits: Arising Out of / Causation Requirement [§3105(1)]

TOPICAL INDEXING:   
Not Applicable  


CASE SUMMARY:   
In this unanimous unpublished per curiam Opinion, the Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court order granting Farm Bureau’s motion in limine to exclude claims for expenses incurred after the date plaintiff filed her complaint, on the basis that the exclusion was harmless in light of the jury’s determination that plaintiff’s injuries did not arise out of the motor vehicle accident.  The Court also affirmed the trial court’s denial of plaintiff’s motion for JNOV with respect to an unpaid ambulance bill based upon the jury determination that the plaintiff was not injured in the course of the accident and, therefore, did not suffer bodily injury as required by MCL 500.3105(1).

The trial court also addressed an issue of governmental immunity as to whether the collision with a John Deere 710D backhoe triggered the statutory exception for governmental immunity as set forth in MCL 691.1405 where damage results from the negligent operation of a “motor vehicle.”  The Court affirmed the trial court determination that the backhoe was not a motor vehicle within the meaning of the exception from governmental immunity.

This case arose from an accident that occurred when plaintiff’s vehicle struck a John Deere 710D front-end loader/backhoe owned by the City of Battle Creek and being operated by a City employee.  Plaintiff sought no-fault personal protection insurance  (PIP) benefits from her insurer, Farm Bureau, which denied plaintiff’s claim on the basis her injuries were unrelated to the accident.  Plaintiff also brought a claim for negligence against the City of Battle Creek, alleging the motor vehicle exception to governmental immunity, MCL 691.1405, allowed her claim to proceed because her alleged injuries resulted from the negligent operation of a “motor vehicle” by an officer, agent, or employee of the governmental agency.

With regard to the claim for PIP benefits, the Court of Appeals held the trial court’s grant of Farm Bureau’s motion in limine to exclude claims for expenses incurred after the date plaintiff filed her complaint was harmless error, because the jury had determined plaintiff’s injuries did not arise out of the motor vehicle accident.  The jury, therefore, never reached the issue of damages.  The Court of Appeals also affirmed the trial court’s denial of plaintiff’s motion for JNOV with regard to an unpaid ambulance bill.  The Court pointed out that an insurer is liable under the No-Fault Act to pay benefits for accidental bodily injury arising out of the ownership, operation, maintenance, or use of a motor vehicle as a motor vehicle under the provisions of MCL 500.3105(1).  The Court of Appeals held that the issue of whether an “accidental bodily injury” has occurred is a fact issue for the jury.  Under the language of the statute, plaintiff must have sustained an accidental bodily injury before Farm Bureau would be liable for the expense of the ambulance bill.  Therefore, the Court of Appeals affirmed the denial of plaintiff’s motion for JNOV.

Concerning the governmental immunity issue, the Court of Appeals determined the backhoe was not a motor vehicle within the meaning of the exception to the Governmental Immunity Act.  The Court pointed out that such statutory exceptions to governmental immunity must be narrowly construed.  The John Deere 710D is a backhoe used for excavation which happens to be operable on the road.  The Court pointed out, however, that the backhoe’s main purpose is to excavate the ground; it is not intended for purposes associated with a road.  Therefore, it did not meet the definition of a motor vehicle within the exception as that definition has been construed by appellate case law  as requiring evidence that the vehicle be “comparable to an automobile, bus, or truck driven and intended to be operated on the roadway.”  Accordingly, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court grant of summary disposition in favor of the City of Battle Creek.


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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