Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket No. 186760; Published
Judges Holbrook, Fitzgerald, and Smolenski; Unanimous; Opinion by Judge Fitzgerald
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: 224 Mich App 70; Link to Opinion
Entitlement to PIP Benefits: Arising Out of / Causation Requirement [§3105(1)]
In this unanimous published opinion by Judge Fitzgerald, the Court of Appeals granted no-fault PIP benefits in a case where plaintiff was assaulted by the driver of another vehicle, after the two vehicles were involved in a rear-end collision, and the two drivers were exchanging information at the scene.
The plaintiff’s vehicle was struck from the rear by another motor vehicle in a minor impact collision that resulted in property damage to the two vehicles. Plaintiff exited his vehicle and was in the process of examining the property damage when he was assaulted by the driver of the other vehicle resulting in injuries to plaintiff. In concluding that this unique assault injury arose out of the ownership, operation, maintenance or use of a motor vehicle within the meaning of §3105( 1), the Court of Appeals placed heavy emphasis on the fact that this injury occurred while the two drivers were discharging their statutory obligations under the Motor Vehicle Code to stop at the scene of a property damage accident and exchange information (see MCLA 257.618 and MCLA 257.619). Thus, there was a sufficient causal connection between the injuries sustained in the assault and the use of a motor vehicle as a motor vehicle to satisfy the requirements of §3105(1).
In this regard, the court stated,
"In this case, we believe that plaintiff's injuries were compensable under the no-fault act because the assault was intimately connected with the operation, maintenance and use of a motor vehicle as a motor vehicle. Plaintiff's injuries arose out of the use of his motor vehicle as a motor vehicle, because getting out of his car—thus exposing himself to the risk of an assault—to determine whether there was an accident resulting in damage was in compliance with the statutory obligations.... While assaults are not ordinarily a part of a 'normal risk' of driving,. . .it would appear that injuries sustained in an assault arising out of an activity normally associated with the use of a vehicle as a motor vehicle, are presumed to be part of the 'normal risk' of driving.... Rather, what is critical for the purpose of determining whether plaintiff's injuries were compensable under the no-fault act, is whether his injuries arose from an activity normally associated with the use of a vehicle as a motor vehicle. In addition, we note that a finding that plaintiff's injuries are compensable under the no-fault act is supported by public policy. In this regard, a finding of coverage encourages compliance with the provisions of the Motor Vehicle Code requiring a driver of a vehicle involved in an accident to stop the vehicle and exchange information with the driver of the other vehicle. To hold otherwise would give Michigan drivers involved in accidents a reason, not altogether unfounded, to ignore these provisions rather than to subject themselves to the possibility of an assault."
In reaching its holding, the court noted the longstanding Michigan rule that the "no-fault act must be liberally construed in favor of those for whom benefit was intended, i. e., persons injured in motor vehicle accidents...."