Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket No. 304622; Published
Judges Cavanagh, Sawyer, and Saad; Per Curiam
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: __ Mich App __; Link to Opinion
In this unanimous published per curiam Opinion, the Court of Appeals held that a motorcyclist who rapidly applied his brakes and lost control of his motorcycle after observing the lights of an approaching vehicle was not in an accident involving a motor vehicle for purposes of MCL 500.3105(1), because there was not a sufficient causal connection “between the motorcyclist’s injuries and the use of a motor vehicle as a motor vehicle sufficient to trigger entitlement to no-fault benefits under MCL 500.3105(1)."
The Plaintiff in this case provided medical treatment to a motorcyclist seriously injured in a motorcycle accident. The accident occurred while the motorcyclist “was traveling upward of 100 mph on a dark and deserted side street that intersected with Jefferson Road, saw bright headlights from an approaching motor vehicle. Upon seeing the lights, the motorcyclist applied his brakes very rapidly to avoid colliding with the vehicle causing the motorcycle to fishtail. The motorcyclist then lost control of the motorcycle and he 'drop[ped the] bike on its side,' hit the sidewalk, and fell. The motorcycle never came into contact with the vehicle." The plaintiff brought this action to recover payment for medical services under MCL 500.3105(1) of the Michigan No-Fault Act. However, the Court held that the motorcyclist was not entitled to PIP benefits under these circumstances.
In reaching this conclusion, the court clarified that "[t]here is no 'iron-clad rule' as to what level of involvement is sufficient under MCL 500.3105” and summarized the relevant factors that must be considered in determining whether a motorcyclist is entitlement to PIP benefits when involved in an accident where there was no physical contact with the motor vehicle itself. In this regard, the court explained:
“ . . . while the automobile need not be the proximate cause of the injury, there still must be a causal connection between the injury sustained and the ownership, maintenance or use of the automobile and which causal connection is more than incidental, fortuitous or but for. [T]he injury must be foreseeably identifiable with the normal use, maintenance and ownership of the vehicle. The causal connection between the injuries and the motor vehicle cannot be extended to something distinctly remote, Moreover, the injuries must be more than tangentially related to the use of an automobile to trigger the entitlement to no-fault benefits. Actual physical contact between a motorcycle and a motor vehicle is not required to establish the requisite involvement of a motor vehicle in an accident so long as the causal nexus between the accident and the car is established. For a motor vehicle to be involved in an accident, it must actively, as opposed to passively, contribute to the accident, and have more than a random association with the accident scene. [T]here must be some activity, with respect to the vehicle, which somehow contributes to the happening of the accident.” (Internal quotations and citations omitted).
Applying these principles, the court held in the case at bar that “the causal connection between the motorcyclist’s injuries and the motor vehicle was merely incidental, fortuitous, or ‘but for,’” and the motorcyclist was therefore not entitled to recover PIP benefits. The court reasoned that “there is no evidence that the motorcyclist needed to take evasive action to avoid the motor vehicle. Rather, the evidence only establishes that the motorcyclist was startled when he saw the approaching headlights and overreacted to the situation.” The Court went on to explain that "[t]he motorcyclist’s evasive action in braking rapidly was in response to seeing the moving vehicle’s headlights and because of the braking he fishtailed and lost control of the motorcycle, ultimately causing him to crash. But this does not mean that the motor vehicle was causally connected to the motorcyclist’s injuries. That is, the injury ‘originated from,’ ‘had its origin in,' 'grew out of,' or 'flowed from' the use of the vehicle as a motor vehicle. . . . We cannot say that the motor vehicle actively contributed to the accident rather than merely being present.”
Accordingly, the court ruled that the plaintiff was not entitled to PIP benefits under the No-Fault Act and REVERSED the trial court’s entry of Judgment in Plaintiff’s favor.