Injured? Contact Sinas Dramis for a free consultation.


Thornton v Allstate Insurance Company; (MSC-PUB, 8/7/1986; RB #935)


Michigan Supreme Court; Docket No. 74497; Published  
Opinion by Justice Boyle    
Official Michigan Reporter Citation:  425 Mich 643; Link to Opinion alt    

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

Legislative Purpose and Intent   

This Opinion by Justice Boyle attempts to resolve the issue of a no-fault insurer's obligations concerning injuries sustained by persons who are assaulted while in a motor vehicle. In reversing the Court of Appeals decision (Item No. 738), the Supreme Court ruled that in such cases there must be established a relationship between the injury and the vehicular use of a motor vehicle. The Court stated that "without a relationship that is more than 'but for,' incidental, or fortuitous, there can be no recovery of PIP benefits."

In this case, Eddie Thornton, Jr., suffered paralysis from the neck down as a result of an armed robbery occurring in his taxi cab. The trial court held that Allstate was liable for first party PIP benefits because Thornton's injuries arose out of his "use of the taxi as a taxi." The Court of Appeals affirmed.

The Supreme Court held that the statutory language in §3105(1) reveals a significant difference between the contractual language which was first construed in the pre-no-fault case of Kangas v Aetna Casualty and Surely Company, 64 Mich App 1; 235 NW2d 42 (1975). The Supreme Court in its decision noted that "the language of §3105(1) requires proof of accidental bodily injury arising out of the ownership, operation, maintenance or use of the motor vehicle as a motor vehicle...." This language shows that the Legislature intended to provide coverage only where the causal connection between the injury and the use of a motor vehicle as a motor vehicle is more than incidental, fortuitous, or "but for." The involvement of the car in the injury should be "directly related to its character as a motor vehicle." In the view of the Supreme Court in this case, the motor vehicle here was merely the "situs of the armed robbery — the injury could have occurred whether or not Mr. Thornton used a motor vehicle as a motor vehicle."

In responding to plaintiff’s argument that his injuries were foreseeably identifiable with the occupational or commercial use of a motor vehicle as a taxi cab, the Supreme Court noted that the mere foreseeability of an injury as an incident to a given use of a motor vehicle is not enough to provide no-fault coverage where the injury itself does not result from the use of the motor vehicle as a motor vehicle. Likewise, the mere absence of foreseeability would not necessarily preclude coverage.

In a concurring opinion, Justice Levin, joined by Justice Archer, would, to decide this case, conclude that an assault on a person who generally carries cash to conduct business is not a risk associated with motoring, but is a risk of such a business. Justice Levin points out that, although the injuries inflicted on Thornton do not come within the intendment of the No-Fault Act, there might be a difference between the assault in the instant case and some other assaults in respect to the use of automobiles that might justify providing for recovery in other cases while recovery is denied in this case. Justice Levin cautions that the test adopted by the majority might be read as barring recovery in a future case that is in fact within the intendment of the No-Fault Act because the risk is one associated with motoring.

[Author's Comment: The holding in this case is consistent with Shaw v Allstate Insurance Company, 141 Mich App 331; 367 NW2d 388 (1985) (Item No. 824), as well several other decisions denying recovery for injuries sustained as a result of an assault while claimant was in a motor vehicle.]

Justice Cavanagh dissented and was joined by Justice Levin. The dissent would hold that where there is a legitimate dispute regarding an injured employee and a workers' compensation carrier, and the parties in good faith enter into a redemption agreement, only the amount of workers' compensation benefits provided pursuant to the redemption agreement should ordinarily be set off pursuant to §3109 of the No-Fault Act The dissent disputes the majority conclusion that the decisions below resulted in duplicate benefits for the plaintiff.

Michigan auto accident attorney 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

Copyright © 2024  Sinas Dramis Law Firm, George Sinas, Stephen Sinas.
All Rights Reserved.
Login (Publishers Only)