Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket No. 120990; Unpublished
Judges Marilyn Kelly, MacKenzie, and Gribbs; 2-1 (with Judge Mackenzie Dissenting); Per Curiam
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: Not Applicable; Link to Opinion
Entitlement to PIP Benefits: Arising Out of / Causation Requirement [§3105(1)]
Entitlement to PIP Benefits: Motor Vehicle Involvement [§3105(1)]
General / Miscellaneous [§3113]
General Rule of Priority [§3114(1)]
Exception for Motorcycle Injuries [§3114(5)]
In this 2-1 per curiam Opinion (Judge MacKenzie dissenting), the Court of Appeals reversed the denial of summary disposition by the trial court and held that a motorcyclist fleeing from police on his motorcycle was entitled to no-fault benefits in connection with injuries sustained when the police patrol car struck the motorcyclist. The issue in this case concerned whether the injuries sustained by the plaintiff arose out of the operation or use of a motor vehicle under §3105(1), or whether the involvement of the police car was merely "fortuitous" rather than the cause of the accident.
Plaintiff Monarch was operating a motorcycle at excessive speed while intoxicated. The Battle Creek police gave chase in a city patrol car, and the motorcycle, which was not equipped with brake lights, eventually came to a stop in the middle of the road. The chasing police car was unable to stop and hit the motorcycle causing injuries to the plaintiff.
Plaintiff filed suit seeking PIP benefits. The trial court refused plaintiff’s request for summary disposition on plaintiff’s entitlement to no-fault personal protection benefits. Plaintiff’s action sought recovery of the PIP benefits from the City of Battle Creek pursuant to the provisions of §3114(5) which states that a person suffering bodily injury from a motor vehicle accident while an operator of a motorcycle shall claim personal protection benefits first from the owner or registrant of the motor vehicle involved in the accident. The defendant contended that plaintiff’s injuries were not "foreseeably identifiable" with the normal operation, maintenance or use of a motor vehicle as required by Thornton v Allstate, 425 Mich 643 (1986). The trial court apparently agreed and denied plaintiff’s motion for summary disposition.
On appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed the trial court denial of summary disposition and held that the plaintiff’s injuries "clearly arose out of the use of a motor vehicle as a motor vehicle." In this case, the motorcycle actually collided with the motor vehicle, and therefore, benefits under the statute were to be provided. The court found the fact that there was actually a collision between motor vehicle and motorcycle distinguished this case from the cases of Peck v Auto-Owners, 112 Mich App 329 CI 982) and Sanford v Insurance Company of North America, 151 Mich App 747 (1986). The court held that even though plaintiff’s offensive actions of driving at an excessive speed while intoxicated were evidence of "fault," the no-fault statute in §3113 specifically provides that benefits are due "without regard to fault." The court, however, urged the legislature to consider drafting a fourth-exception that would prevent recovery of benefits under circumstances such as in this case.
Judge MacKenzie, in her dissent, would uphold the trial court's denial of summary disposition on the basis of the Peck, supra, decision. Judge MacKenzie would hold that the decisive factor in Peck, supra, and Sanford, supra, was that the injuries were caused by the plaintiff’s "flight" rather than the involvement of the motor vehicle. Because the involvement of the police cruiser was merely fortuitous rather than the cause of the accident, Judge MacKenzie would hold that plaintiff’s injuries did not arise out of the operation or use of a motor vehicle under §3105(1).