Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket No. 128232; Published
Judges Griffin, Hood, and McDonald; Unanimous; Per Curiam
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: 193 Mich App 317; Link to Opinion
Exception to General Priority for Non-Occupants [§3115(1)]
This unanimous per curiam Opinion dealt with the meaning of the statutory term "occupant" in the priority provisions of §3115 of the no-fault statute. Under what it termed "bizarre facts" the Court of Appeals held that where a injured person was riding on the hood of a vehicle at the time the accident occurred, the injured person was considered to be an "occupant" of the vehicle as that term is used in §3115 for the reason that the person was "in or upon" the vehicle and, therefore, under commonly understood notions of occupancy, should be considered an occupant of the vehicle.
In this particular case, the injured person had been driving his girlfriend's uninsured vehicle and had stopped the vehicle on the side of the road because of mechanical problems. Immediately before stopping, the injured person and his girlfriend were fighting inside of the vehicle. When the injured person exited the vehicle to perform a mechanical function regarding the vehicle, and then attempted to return to the vehicle, his girlfriend locked the doors and started the vehicle and drove it away. This angered the boyfriend, and he jumped on the hood of the vehicle. The vehicle continued down the road and into an intersection where it was involved in an accident with another vehicle causing serious injuries to the boyfriend who was still holding onto the hood. The court held:
"We conclude that under the bizarre facts in this case Boone [boyfriend] was an occupant of the vehicle driven by Bradley [girlfriend] because he was 'upon' the vehicle while he was transported on its hood for several blocks.... Although the Supreme Court left unresolved in Royal Globe [Item No. 777] the issue of whether persons 'entering into or alighting from' a vehicle are 'occupants,' the Court appeared to assume without difficulty that persons 'in or upon' a vehicle are 'occupants' as the term is used in the no-fault act The primary and generally understood meaning of the term 'occupant' is best summarized by the commonly used policy definition of 'in or upon' the vehicle. We therefore apply the 'in or upon' definition to the no-fault statutory term 'occupant.' In the present case, defendant Bradley was undoubtedly 'upon' the Boone vehicle while he was transported on its hood for several blocks. Whether the injured party intended to be transported by the vehicle in the manner mat ultimately transpired is of no consequence. We therefore conclude that Boone was an occupant of the vehicle involved."
The court also noted that its earlier opinion in Rohlman v Hawkeye Security (Item No. 1500) was not controlling as the dispute did not deal with the definition of the insurance policy term "occupant." Rather, the issue at bar was the statutory definition of occupant.