Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket No. 99859; Published
Judges Kelly, Sullivan, and Shamo; Unanimous; Per Curiam
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: 172 Mich App 783; Link to Opinion
Entitlement to PIP Benefits: Arising Out of / Causation Requirement [§3105(1)]
Entitlement to PIP Benefits: Motor Vehicle Involvement [§3105(1)]
General Rule of Priority [§3114(1)]
Exception for Motorcycle Injuries [§3114(5)]
In this unanimous per curiam Opinion, the Court of Appeals held that a motorcyclist was entitled to no-fault benefits in an accident involving a collision with other motorcyclists because there was sufficient evidence of the "involvement" of certain other motor vehicles thereby creating a causal nexus between the operation of those motor vehicles and the collision between the motorcyclists. The accident in question occurred when an unidentified semi-truck suddenly and without warning left its lane thereby causing the vehicle behind the truck to suddenly stop. This caused multiple rear-end collisions back down the line of traffic. Motorcyclists that were proceeding in the same direction were unable to stop when they encountered the motor vehicle collisions ahead, and as a result, the motorcycles collided in an attempt to stop. The Court held that the test for determining whether a motor vehicle is involved in an accident for purposes of no-fault liability was accurately set forth in Kangas v Aetna Insurance Company, 64 Mich App 1 (1975), which case requires a causal connection between the injuries sustained and the ownership, maintenance or use of the automobile, which causal connection is more than incidental, fortuitous or but for. It is not necessary that there be actual physical contact between a motorcycle and an automobile. In this regard, the Court stated, "moreover, it is not difficult to imagine a situation in which there may be a causal nexus between a motorist's conduct and an accidental injury quite apart from any physical contact between the insured and the other vehicles involved. The relevant inquiry then is whether a causal nexus can be established that would link the injuries incurred in the accident to a motor vehicle. Here, the deposition testimony supports a reasonable inference that a sudden lane change of the lead vehicle, the semi-truck, caused every driver in the chain of traffic... "to make an emergency stop which contributed to plaintiffs injuries." The Court remanded the case back to the trial court for a factual determination as to which of the vehicles in the chain reaction collision were sufficiently "involved" for purposes of sharing liability for no-fault benefits in accordance with §3114(5).