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Wakefield Leasing Corp v Transamerica Insurance Co of Michigan and Muroaka; (COA-PUB, 8/29/1995; RB #1811)


Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket Nos. 162911,162924 and 165938; Published  
Judges MacKenzie, Griffin, and Neff; Unanimous; Per Curiam  
Official Michigan Reporter Citation:  213 Mich App 123; Link to Opinion alt  

Not Applicable

Motor Vehicle Code (Civil Liability of Owner) (MCL 257.401)  
Private Contract (Meaning and Intent)  

This unanimous per curiam Opinion by Judge Griffin is closely related to the Century Mutual decision summarized above in Item No. 1810. Relying upon the newly issued decision in Century Mutual, the Court of Appeals held that a tort claim arising out of an assault against a passenger in a taxicab, alleging a tortious failure to install a protective partition between the front and rear seat of the cab, was not sufficiently causally related to the ownership, operation, maintenance or use of the taxicab to invoke liability coverage under the taxicab's automobile liability policy. Accordingly, s uch a claim was the sole responsibility of the general liability carrier. 

In so holding, the Court of Appeals again emphasized that, based upon the recent holding in Century Mutual v League General, the causality standard for residual liability insurance is the same as the causality standard for no-fault personal protection or property protection insurance benefits. The court went on to say that under the three-part Appleman causation test adopted in Century Mutual:

".. .the allegation in the underlying personal injury complaint of failure to provide a protective partition is insufficient to invoke automobile liability coverage. Under the third part of the Appleman test, the automobile must not merely contribute to cause the condition which produces the injury but must itself produce the injury The allegation at issue relates not to the automobile, itself, but to a special modification to the vehicle that should have been made if the automobile were to be used for a unique purpose in a particular area. Wakefield's liability, if any, arises from a negligent or intentional business decision. No liability is alleged arising out of the ownership, maintenance or use of the automobile itself. Rather, liability is predicated on the theory that it was tortious for Wakefield to: (a) dispatch an automobile, (b) as a commercial taxicab, (c) to a high crime area, (d) without providing safety partitions to separate the driver from the dangerous passengers The automobile was not the instrumentality of the injury."  

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