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MacDonald v State Farm Mutual Insurance Company; (MSC-PUB, 6/25/1984; RB # 754)


Michigan Supreme Court; Docket No. 68139; Published  
Opinion by Justice Brickley; 4-3 (with J. Boyle, J. Williams, C. J. Cavanagh Dissenting)  
Official Michigan Reporter Citation:  419 Mich 146; Link to Opinion alt   

Entitlement to PIP Benefits: Arising Out of / Causation Requirement [§3105(1)]  
Work Loss Benefits: Nature of the Benefit [§3107(1)(b)]  
Wage Loss for Temporarily Unemployed Persons / Qualifications [§3107a]

Not Applicable    

In this 4-3 Opinion by Justice Brickley, joined by Justices Cavanagh, Levin and Ryan, the Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals in Item No. 434 and held that plaintiff was not entitled to receive no-fault work-loss benefits after suffering an unrelated heart attack two weeks after an automobile accident In the auto accident, plaintiff sustained injuries which were serious enough to disable him. However, his unrelated heart attack also would have disabled him had he not been involved in the earlier automobile accident The majority held that plaintiff was not entitled to receive work-loss benefits under §3107(b) because a no-fault insurer is only liable to pay benefits under mat section for income that "would have been" received had the accident not occurred. In this case, plaintiff would have worked for two weeks after the date of the accident until the date of his heart attack. After that date he would have earned no wage even if the accident had not occurred. Therefore, under §3107(b), plaintiff is ineligible to receive benefits after the date of his heart attack.

The majority also held that plaintiff was ineligible to receive work-loss benefits under the "temporarily unemployed" provisions of §3107a. The court held that the phrase "temporarily unemployed" refers to the unavailability of employment, not the physical inability to perform work. A person who becomes disabled at some time subsequent to an automobile accident for reasons unrelated to the accident is not "temporarily unemployed," and thus work-loss benefits are unavailable under that particular section of the act In so holding, the majority stated, "§3107a identifies an amount which is deemed by that section to be the work-loss for temporarily unemployed persons. It allows persons temporarily unemployed at the time of an automobile accident to recover benefits notwithstanding that they have no existing wage, and it allows those already receiving work-loss benefits to continue receiving benefits for those temporary periods when they would have had no wage had the accident not occurred. But §3107a does not expressly state that persons unable to work for physical reasons are temporarily unemployed, and we cannot read such a meaning into the statute."

Justice Cavanagh dissented, joined by Justice Boyle and Chief Justice Williams. Justice Cavanagh wrote that the temporarily unemployed provisions of §3107a do not apply to the facts of this case because that section only applies to those persons who, at the time of an auto accident disability, or at some time during such a disability become temporarily unemployed because of the lack of available employment Section 3107a is not intended to apply to someone who is already unemployed because of a disabling car injury and then becomes redundantly unemployed because of a second unrelated disability. Therefore, because §3107a does not apply, the case is controlled solely by §3107(b). Under that section, plaintiff should be entitled to recover work-loss benefits because he sustained injuries in a motor vehicle accident which were sufficiently serious to have disabled him from employment he otherwise would have performed. That is all §3107(b) requires as long as the plaintiff's injuries from the accident continue to result in an inability to work, an actual loss is incurred and work-loss benefits are payable under §3107(b). The fact that a second, independent disability also precludes the claimant from working does not break the causal relationship between the accident and the work-loss.

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