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Michigan Department of Social Services v Auto-Club Insurance Association; (COA-PUB, 10/17/1988; RB #1185)


Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket No. 93421; Published    
Opinion by Judge Glaser; 2-1 (with Judge Cynar Dissenting);
Official Michigan Reporter Citation:  173 Mich App 552; Link to Opinion alt    

Entitlement to PIP Benefits: Arising Out of / Causation Requirement [§3105(1)]  
Entitlement to PIP Benefits: Motor Vehicle Involvement [§3105(1)]

Not Applicable    

In this 2-1 Opinion by Judge Glaser, the Court of Appeals held that the severe injuries sustained by a motorcyclist arose out of the "ownership, operation, maintenance or use of a motor vehicle as a motor vehicle" per §3105(1), so as to entitle the motorcyclist to recover no-fault benefits from the insurance company of the motor vehicle. The accident in this case occurred when the motorcyclist and the automobile were stopped side by side in adjacent lanes for a traffic light. As the light changed, the automobile began to move forward slightly while the motorcycle stalled. The motorcyclist immediately restarted his cycle, but the throttle stuck and the cycle took off out of control. As the cycle proceeded into the intersection, it swerved toward the automobile in the adjacent lane whereupon the cyclist extended his leg and pushed off the left rear tire of the automobile. This caused the motorcyclist to swerve into the opposite direction, go up over a curb and hit a brick wall. In holding that the automobile was "sufficiently involved” in the accident to trigger payment of no-fault benefits, the Court made the following-observations:

"While no iron-clad rule can be discerned as to what involvement is sufficient under §3105, some guidelines emerge from a reading of the cases. First, it appears that a vehicle which is motionless in a lawful position is less likely to be considered involved. Conversely, in view of the Thornton emphasis on the relation between an injury and the functional character of a motor vehicle, a moving vehicle is much more likely to be held to be involved in such injuries for purposes of the statute. . . . In addition, in spite of the fact that no contact is necessary for such involvement in the accident,... contact is much more likely to be held to result in an involvement sufficient to trigger this statute. Indeed, it is difficult to conceive of a situation in which there is actual contact on a public highway between the injured party and/or his vehicle and a moving motor vehicle, which results in injury, that would not be sufficient for a direct relation between the injury and the functional character of the motor vehicle in view of the present case law. Finally, it is clear that the injury must be reasonably identified with the normal use, maintenance and ownership of the motor vehicle. . . . In this case, the DeSot vehicle was being operated as a motor vehicle on the public highway. The movement of the automobile was one of the factors along with the movement of the motorcycle. The dynamics of the accident included the forces exerted by both vehicles -- the fact that they struck, the angle and location at which they struck and the course of the subsequent deflection which resulted in the injury. The relation between the functional character of the motor vehicle and Smith's injuries was direct It was therefore more than incidental, fortuitous or but for. A collision between a motorcycle and an automobile while operating on a highway is clearly foreseeably identifiable with the normal use of a motor vehicle.”

Judge Cynar dissented on the basis that there was no contact between the motorcycle and the vehicle nor was there any indication that the movement of the automobile had anything to do with the accident.

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