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Morosini v Citizens Insurance Company of America (After Remand); (MSC-PUB, 12/7/1999; RB #2084)

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Michigan Supreme Court; Docket No. 113447; Published
6-1 Opinion (with Justice Cavanagh Concurring in Result Only, and Justice Kelly Dissenting); Per Curiam     
Official Michigan Reporter Citation:  461 Mich 303; Link to Opinion alt     


STATUTORY INDEXING:     
Entitlement to PIP Benefits: Arising Out of / Causation Requirement [§3105(1)]

TOPICAL INDEXING:   
Legislative Purpose and Intent   


CASE SUMMARY:   
In this 6-1 per curiam Opinion, with Justice Cavanagh concurring in result only and Justice Kelly dissenting, the Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals decision in Item No. 1942, and ruled that no-fault PIP benefits were not payable for injuries sustained in a physical assault that occurred during an altercation following a two (2) vehicle accident when the drivers were exchanging insurance information.

In reversing the lower courts, the Supreme Court reviewed earlier Supreme Court cases holding that PIP benefits were not payable in assault situations (Thornton v Allstate Insurance Company [Item No. 935]; Marzonie v ACIA [Item No. 1586]; Bourne v Farmers [Item No. 1780]; and McKenzie v ACIA [Item No. 19915]).

After reviewing these cases, the court extracted certain principals which it summarized as follows:

"Each of these decisions is instructive, and each supports our conclusion that the Legislature crafted the no-fault statute in a manner that excludes the facts of the present case. From these decisions we learn:

Coverage is not mandated by the fact that the injury occurred within a moving vehicle, or by the fact that the driver believed that the passenger entered the vehicle for the purpose of being transported. Thornton.

The focus is on the relationship between the injury and the use of a motor vehicle as a motor vehicle, not on the intent of the assailant. Marzonie.

Incidental involvement of a motor vehicle does not give rise to coverage under the language enacted by the Legislature, even if assaultive behavior occurred at more than one location, and the vehicle was used to transport the victim from one place to the other. Bourne.

The statute authorizes coverage in the event of an assault only if it is ‘closely related to the transportational function of motor vehicles.’ McKenzie.

These cases can lead only to the conclusion that the facts of the present case are not within the coverage intended by the Legislature. In the mind of the second motorist, the assault may have been motivated by closely antecedent events that involved the use of a motor vehicle as a motor vehicle, but the assault itself was a separate occurrence. The plaintiff was not injured in a traffic accident-he was injured by another person's rash and excessive response to these events. The assault in this case was not 'closely related to the transportational function of motor vehicles.' McKenzie at 226."

Justice Cavanagh concurred in the result only. He agreed that no-fault benefits were not compensable, but wrote that the issue was solely one of whether there was a "causal connection between the use of the vehicle as a vehicle and the injury." No such causal connection existed here, because "plaintiff's injuries arose out of the blows inflicted on him by another motorist. The connection to the use of vehicles as motor vehicles preceding the attack provides insufficient 'but for' causations."

Justice Cavanagh disagreed with the court's reliance upon McKenzie v ACIA and the use of the “transportational function” rule articulated in that decision. This was not a situation where a motor vehicle was being used for purposes other than a motor vehicle. On the contrary, the only question is whether the causal connection between the use of the motor vehicle as a motor vehicle was "broken by a physical personal assault."

 Justice Kelly dissented on the basis of the reasoning set forth in the Court of Appeals


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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