Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket No. 217520; Unpublished
Judges Jansen, Hoekstra, and Collins; Unanimous; Per Curiam
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: Not Applicable; Link to Opinion
In this unanimous unpublished per curiam Opinion, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's denial of no-fault PIP benefits to a plaintiff who sustained injury as the result of the accidental discharge of a shotgun that was being moved from the front seat of the pickup truck to the back seat.
In denying benefits, the court relied upon the parked vehicle provisions of section 3106 of the statute and the Supreme Court's decision in Putkamer v Transamerica Insurance Corporation of America, 454 Mich 626 (1997) [Item No. 1929].
Citing Putkamer, the court held that a claimant seeking PIP benefits as the result of an injury arising out of a parked vehicle must show three (3) things: (1) that the incident fits within one of the three subsections of section 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 this case, the Court of Appeals held that plaintiff’s injury failed to satisfy the third requirement, which necessitates establishing the requisite causal relationship between injury and motor vehicle. The court focused closely upon the specific facts of this case and noted that the shotgun was lying across the front bench seat of the pickup truck.
The plaintiff had opened the passenger door of the pickup truck and was beginning to enter the vehicle. At that time, plaintiff’s cousin was standing outside the truck, on the driver's side of the vehicle, and was reaching in the driver's door to pick up the shotgun and move it into the back seat. When the cousin touched the shotgun, he inadvertently hit the trigger causing the weapon to discharge, resulting in serious injuries to plaintiff. The court said that, in these circumstances, there was an inadequate causal relationship between the injury and the motor vehicle. The court held that "here the motor vehicle was merely the site of the accident."
The court also distinguished this case from the earlier decision in Perryman v Citizens Insurance Company of America, 156 Mich App 359 (1986) [Item No. 966]. In Perryman, no-fault benefits were awarded in a shotgun discharge case primarily on the basis that the discharge was related to the "confining nature of the vehicle." In the case at bar, there was nothing obstructing or interfering with the cousin's access to the shotgun which was laying across the seat in a position where it could be easily moved. Thus, the Perryman analysis did not apply and benefits were properly denied.