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O'Henley v Liberty Mutual Insurance Company; (COA-UNP, 12/3/1999; RB #2105)

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Michigan Court of Appeals; DocketNo. 208468; Unpublished
Judges Gribbs, O'Connell, and R.B. Burns; 2-1 (with Judge O’Connell Concurring in Part and Dissenting in Part); Per Curiam
Official Michigan Reporter Citation:  Not Applicable; Link to Opinion alt  


STATUTORY INDEXING:   
Exclusion for Parked Vehicles Covered by Workers Comp [§3106(2)]  
Requirement That Benefits Were Unreasonably Delayed or Denied [§3148(1)]

TOPICAL INDEXING:   
Workers Disability Compensation Act (MCL 418.1, et seq.)   


CASE SUMMARY:     
In this unpublished per curiam Opinion, with Judge O'Connell concurring in part and dissenting in part, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court ruling that plaintiff’s claim for no-fault PIP benefits was not precluded by the "trucker exclusion" provisions of section 3106(2)(a) which deny no-fault benefits to workers' compensation covered employees who are injured while doing mechanical work on a parked vehicle.

The court held that in this case, plaintiff truck driver was not involved in doing mechanical work when he was injured conducting a "pre-trip check" of his truck, which involved checking the truck's water and oil levels and filling them if necessary.

The court noted that previous decisions of the Court of Appeals interpreting the "mechanical work" provisions of section 3106(2)(a) clearly indicated that the term "mechanical work" is work that is normally done by a mechanic for purposes of maintaining or repairing the vehicle, rather than routine preventative maintenance, such as checking engine oil, water levels, battery charge, etc. In concluding that the routine preventative maintenance checks were not part of "mechanical work," the court stated:

"According to plaintiff's testimony and affidavit, a regular part of his job as a truck driver was checking the oil and water levels of his vehicle and refilling his engine as necessary. This portion of his job was never conducted by a mechanic. Any other necessary mechanical maintenance work was done by E & L Transport, the owner of the truck. Because of the amount of time that E & L trucks spend on the road, it is necessary to regularly monitor the fluid levels in the trucks' engines. The claim that, in the hauling and trucking business, this kind of maintenance is work normally performed by mechanics, rather than the truck drivers themselves, simply strains credulity. Because plaintiff was not performing mechanical work within the meaning of section 3106(2) (a) when he was injured, the trial court did not err in granting plaintiff's motion for summary disposition." 

The majority also affirmed the trial court's order granting plaintiff’s motion for attorney fees pursuant to section 3148. The court noted that, "Common sense alone would dictate that checking and adding motor oil, especially in a situation involving a professional truck driver, is not work normally done by a mechanic." Therefore, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in finding that the defendant's refusal to pay benefits in this case was unreasonable.

Judge O'Connell concurred in the result, but dissented from the award of attorney fees. He felt that the insurer had a right to litigate the question of whether the preventative maintenance tasks involved in this case constituted mechanical work under section 3106(2)(a).

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