Michigan Court of Appeals; DocketNo. 164138; Unpublished
Judges Doctoroff, Michael J. Kelly, and Markey; Unanimous; Per Curiam
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: Not Applicable; Link to Opinion
Work Loss Benefits: Nature of the Benefit [§3107(1)(b)]
Entitlement to PIP Benefits: Arising Out of / Causation Requirement [§3105(1)]
Aggravation of Preexisting Conditions [§3105(1)]
In this unpublished per curiam Opinion involving a claim for first-party work loss benefits, the Court of Appeals addressed applicable jury instructions in the situation where the insured had a pre-existing injury. Plaintiff injured his back while at work with Ford Motor Company in February 1988. His back problems progressed to the point where in June 1988, he was unable to work at his job. In December 1988, plaintiff was involved in an automobile accident which resulted in an injury to his back. However, plaintiff testified that his previous back injury had healed, and but for the automobile accident, he would have returned to work in January 1989. He attempted to resume his employment in May 1989, but was unable to do so because of his back injuries. Shortly thereafter, he retired from his employment due to disability.
Plaintiff and his no-fault first party carrier disputed the amount of work loss benefits payable to plaintiff, with the insurance company contending that the loss of work was caused by a pre-automobile accident injury. The court instructed the jury that if it found that the work loss was due solely to a work-related injury, plaintiff would not be entitled to no-fault work loss benefits. The court also gave the jury an instruction, based upon a modification of a negligence instruction, that if plaintiff s losses were caused by two separate injuries which were not divisible, then the entire amount of plaintiff s no-fault benefits must be assessed against the insurance company. The Court of Appeals held that these instructions were in error, in that the jury was not entitled to award damages for injuries that it did not determine were caused by the automobile accident. The court held:
"Instead of instructing the jury that it could only award damages for injuries which were caused by the automobile accident, the trial court instructed the jury that defendant was required to pay for any injuries which were not a result of plaintiff s pre-existing injury. In other words, the trial court instructed the jury that, even if it could not attribute part of plaintiff’s injury to the automobile accident, defendant was responsible for work-loss benefits as long as the jury did not find that the damages were solely attributable to a pre-existing injury. Because injuries which cannot be attributed to a single identifiable event or accident are excluded from coverage, the trial court's instructions were contrary to law."