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Barnes v Department of Social Services and Auto-Owners Insurance Company; (COA-UNP, 2/10/1989; RB #1221)


Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket No.106212; Unpublished  
Judges Maher, Holbrook, Jr. and Noble; Unanimous; Per Curiam  
Official Michigan Reporter:  Not Applicable; Link to Opinion alt   

Entitlement to PIP Benefits: Arising Out of / Causation Requirement [§3105(1)]  
Exclusion for Vehicles Considered Parked [§3106(1)]  
Exception for Vehicle Maintenance [§3106]

Not Applicable   

In this unanimous per curiam Opinion, the Court of Appeals reversed a trial court summary disposition in favor of defendant insurance company in a case concerning whether plaintiff’s injuries arose out of maintenance of a motor vehicle.

In this case, plaintiff visited the residence of his friend who was in the process of repairing an automobile parked in his yard. One tire had been removed from the vehicle because it was flat. His friend asked him to repair the tire and mount it on the vehicle. The tire was lying on the ground near the vehicle, and when plaintiff attempted to lift it, he injured his back.

The circuit court entered summary disposition in favor of the insurance company on the basis that plaintiff was not repairing the vehicle, but rather, the maintenance was confined to the tire itself. In reversing the trial court, and entering summary disposition in favor of the plaintiff, the Court of Appeals relied on the case of Wagner v Michigan Mutual (Item No. 693). In that case, plaintiff was insured when attempting to start the engine of a truck on a cold night. To aid in this process, he started a charcoal fire in a tire rim and placed the fire under the oil pan of the truck. When the fire went out, he attempted to start the fire by squirting lighter fluid into the rim. The fluid ignited and burned plaintiff. The Wagner court held that plaintiff's efforts to start the truck, including the lighting of the charcoal fire, were maintenance within the meaning of the No-Fault Act.

Similarly, in this case, the Court of Appeals held that the act of mounting the tire clearly satisfied the maintenance requirement for entitlement to no-fault benefits. Here, plaintiff was attempting to lift the vehicle's tire in close spatial proximity to the vehicle with the intent to mount it onto the vehicle. This was enough to amount to a maintenance function.

In entering summary disposition in plaintiff’s favor, the court held that defendant had failed to meet its burden under the rules governing summary disposition motions requiring it to demonstrate a genuine issue of material fact concerning the maintenance issue.

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

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