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Davis v Citizens Insurance Company; (COA- PUB, 8/3/1992; RB #1556)

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Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket No. 130815; Published  
Judges Holbrook, Jr., Griffin, and Marilyn Kelly (with Judge Griffin, Concurring); Per Curiam  
Official Michigan Reporter Citation:  195 Mich App 323; Link to Opinion alt  


STATUTORY INDEXING:  
Allowable Expenses for Handicapper Motor Vehicles [§3107(1)(a)]  
Allowable Expenses: Reasonable Necessity Requirement [§3107(1)(a)]  
Allowable Expenses: Reasonable Charge Requirement [§3107(1)(a)] 
12% Interest Penalty on Overdue Benefits – Nature and Scope [§3142(2), (3)]

TOPICAL INDEXING: 
Not Applicable  


CASE SUMMARY: 
In this per curiam published Opinion (Judge Griffin concurring), the Court of Appeals decided an issue of apparent first impression with regard to the obligation of a no-fault insurance company to purchase a van converted for wheelchair use for a paralyzed plaintiff. 

Plaintiff was a passenger in an automobile struck by a truck, and as a result of the collision, plaintiff was rendered a paraplegic. Plaintiff requested that Citizens purchase a van converted for wheelchair use, but Citizens refused, offering instead to pay for the renovation of a van. Following a bench trial, the trial court held that the purchase price of the van converted for a wheelchair use was a reasonable and necessary expense under the No-Fault Act, §3107(a). The court reasoned that the van was necessary for plaintiff to lead as full and complete a life as possible given her physical limitations. The trial court rejected the argument that county provided ambulance service and public transportation were available and thereby made plaintiff’s requested van unnecessary.  

The Court of Appeals, in affirming the trial court decision, relied upon Sharp v Preferred Risk Mutual Insurance Company, 142 Mich App 499 (1985), which had determined that plaintiff’s rental expenses were allowable expenses under the no-fault act. The court in Sharp had concluded that as long as larger and better equipped housing was required for the injured person than would be required for the uninjured person, the full rental cost was an allowable expense.  

In this case, the Court of Appeals held that the cost of the van was reasonable, and obviously the expense was incurred. The court also found that die van was reasonably necessary. Transportation is as necessary for an uninjured person as for an injured person. However, the converted van is a necessary product for the injured person given the limited availability of plaintiff s alternate means of transportation. The van allows plaintiff to travel outside of the county for medical purposes and vacations. Additionally, the van allowed plaintiff independence to go to work.  

The Court of Appeals also concluded that plaintiff was entitled to interest on the benefits claimed under §3142(3). Penalty interest under the no-fault act is triggered when the benefits become overdue and no exception applies for the good faith of the insurer in denying liability.  

Finally, the court determined that the trial court erred in holding that Citizens was obligated to pay for all of the van's documented mileage. Mileage for personal use is as necessary for an injured person as for an uninjured person. The court felt that mileage incurred for medical treatment was an allowable expense, but mileage for other personal purposes was not. 

In his concurring opinion, Judge Griffin agreed that the trial court's finding of fact with regard to the issue of the van's reasonable necessity was not clearly erroneous. However, Judge Griffin would hold that where the van is a replacement for a vehicle operated by the plaintiff prior to the accident, then the measure of damages should be the difference between the new product and the previously owned product.  


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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