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Gooden v Transamerica Insurance; (COA-PUB, 3/7/1988; RB #1234)

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Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket No 97559; Published  
Judges R. M. Maher, Gribbs, and Simmon     
Official Michigan Reporter Citation:  166 Mich App 793; Link to Opinion alt   


STATUTORY INDEXING:  
Entitlement to PIP Benefits: Arising Out of / Causation Requirement [§3105(1)]  
Entitlement to PIP Benefits: Transportational Function Requirement [§3105(1)]  
Exclusion for Vehicles Considered Parked [§3106(1)]    
Exception for Entering Into or Alighting From [§3106(1)(c)]  
Causal Connection Requirement [§3106]

TOPICAL INDEXING:
Not Applicable    


CASE SUMMARY:  
In this unusual case, the Court of Appeal considered the parked vehicle provisions of the no-fault statute together with the provision of the statute requiring that the claimant established that the motor vehicle was being used as a motor vehicle at the time of the accident.

Plaintiff was assisting his friend in chipping ice off the roof of his friend's home. To assist him in this chore, plaintiff parked his pickup truck next to the house and positioned a ladder against the roof from the truck bed. After knocking snow and ice off with a small ax, plaintiff dropped the tool into a snow bank below where it landed handle up. As he was taking down the ladder, he stumbled on some ice which had dropped into the truck bed. To avoid falling on firewood stacked in the truck, he threw himself over the edge of the truck in hopes of landing on the snow bank. Unfortunately, plaintiff landed in a straddle position atop the ax, impaling himself on the handle.

When plaintiff applied for no-fault benefits for his injuries, the defendant contended that he was not entitled because he had not been using the pickup truck as a motor vehicle at the time of the injury, as required by §3105(1). Plaintiff claimed that because he satisfied one of the exceptions to the "parked vehicle exclusions," in that he was injured while "alighting" from the truck, he therefore, was entitled to no-fault benefits.

In rejecting this argument, the Court of Appeals held that it had previously overwhelming ruled that, in order to recover for an injury in cases such as this, the claimant must show that an exception to the parked vehicle exclusion supplies and the injury arose out of the use of a motor vehicle as a motor vehicle. The Court of Appeals declined to accept plaintiff’s argument that the Supreme Court has recently limited prior Court of Appeals rulings on this issue in its decision in Clute v General Accident Insurance Company of Canada, 428 Mich 871 (1987).

The Court held that it is clear that the use of a motor vehicle as a motor vehicle is not conclusively established from the mere fact that one of the exceptions to the parked vehicle exclusion is found to apply.

Further, the Court of Appeals held that, to be compensable under §3105(1), the claimant must satisfy a two-prong test:

a. Could the injury just as well have occurred elsewhere?

b. Was the act which immediately precipitated the injury identifiable with the normal use of a motor vehicle?

The court held that it is not absolutely required, though, that these two prongs be linked together before no-fault recovery is possible. There may be a case where the injury could not have occurred except in an automobile but the act which immediately precipitated the injury is not identifiable with the normal use of a motor vehicle. Applying those standards to this case, the court held that the plaintiff was not using his truck as a motor vehicle at the time of the accident. The truck has merely been used as a perch from which to position and stabilize the ladder. Thus, the court held that it was not unlike any other stationary objects such as a tree, sign post or boulder. Plaintiff’s truck was nothing more than a scaffold. Therefore, no-fault benefits were denied.


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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