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Dairyland Ins Co v Amerisure Ins Co; (COA-UNP, 04/23/13; RB #3342)

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Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket #308452; Unpublished
Judges Owens, Whitbeck, and Fort Hood; Unanimous; Per Curiam;
Official Michigan Reporter Citation:  Not Applicable; Link to Opinion alt 


STATUTORY INDEXING:             
Exception for Employer Provided Vehicles [§3114(3)]

TOPICAL INDEXING:     
Not Applicable 


CASE SUMMARY:  
In this unanimous unpublished per curiam Opinion, involving a priority dispute between plaintiff’s personal automobile insurance carrier and the insurer of a vehicle registered to plaintiff’s employer, the Michigan Court of Appeals reversed summary disposition and held there were factually disputed issues as to whether plaintiff, for purposes of the No-Fault Act, was an actual “employee” of the registrant of the motor vehicle plaintiff occupied at the time of his injury.

Earnest Griffin filed a claim against his personal automobile insurance carrier, Dairyland Insurance Company, for no-fault benefits arising from an accident that occurred while he was an occupant of a vehicle registered to his employer, Real-Trans, LLC, and insured by Amerisure.

The determination of appropriate priority for coverage under MCL 500.3114(3) depended upon whether Griffin was an employee of Real-Trans for purposes of the No-Fault Act, or whether he was an independent contractor and, therefore, not an employee.  Under MCL 500.3114, coverage would be provided by the insurer on the vehicle registered to Real-Trans if Griffin was an employee of Real-Trans while occupying a vehicle registered to that company:

3114(3)  An employee . . . who suffers accidental bodily injury while an occupant of a motor vehicle owned or registered by the employer, shall receive personal protection insurance benefits to which the employee is entitled from the insurer of the furnished vehicle.”

The court noted that the term “employee” is not defined in the no-fault statute, but cases have established that an independent contractor is not considered an employee for purposes of the No-Fault Act.  The court held that to be an employee, there must be an actual employment relationship.  Cases have established an “economic reality test” to determine whether an employment relationship exists under the No-Fault Act.  Multiple factors are evaluated, including, (1) control of a worker’s duties, (2) payment of wages, (3) right to hire, fire, and discipline, and (4) performance of the duties as an integral part of the employer’s business toward the accomplishment of a common goal.  Other facts include whether the individual furnishes his own equipment, whether the individual holds himself out to the public for hire, and whether independent contractors customarily perform the undertaking. 

The court noted that in commercial situations, it was the Legislature’s intent to place the burden of providing no-fault benefits on the insurers of those motor vehicles, such as those vehicles owned by or registered to an employer.

In reversing the trial court grant of summary disposition, in which it was determined that Griffin was an employee for purposes of the No-Fault Act, the Court of Appeals held that there were many “inconsistencies and contradictions” in the evidence which created a genuine issue of material fact regarding Griffin’s employment status that should be decided by a jury.  These inconsistencies concern conflicting testimony as to whether Griffin had a supervisor to answer to, whether he was subject to discipline, whether he was responsible for truck repairs and fuel costs, and whether he worked for another company in between runs.  It was also noted that both Griffin and the owner of Real-Trans testified that they classified the relationship as an “independent contractor” relationship and Griffin received a 1099 IRS form when paid.  Under all of these facts, the court held that there was evidence which could support both a finding that Griffin was an employee and finding that he was an independent contractor and, therefore, summary disposition was inappropriate. 


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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