Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket No. 62816; Published
Judges T.M. Burns, Maher, and Hood; 2-1
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: 128 Mich App 624; Link to Opinion
In this 2-1 decision, the Court of Appeals denied no-fault benefits to a truck driver who was injured in a fall down a flight of steps at a truck loading dock. Plaintiff had driven his employer's truck-trailer to its destination and had backed the vehicle up to the loading dock. Plaintiff exited the truck, climbed half way up a flight of stairs that were situated on the loading dock for purposes of seeing if the truck was correctly positioned. Plaintiff then turned to go back to the truck and as he was turning, slipped and fell down the loading dock stairs, sustaining serious injuries. The majority (Judges Maher and Hood) disagreed as to the basis of the denial of benefits. Judge Maher wrote that in his opinion plaintiff was not entitled to recover benefits because he did not satisfy any of the parked vehicle exceptions set forth in §3106. In addition, Judge Maher wrote the plaintiff's injury did not arise out of the ownership, operation, maintenance or use of a motor vehicle as a motor vehicle. Judge Maher rejected plaintiff's contention that he qualified for benefits as an "occupant" of a motor vehicle under §3106(c). He refused to apply a previous decision of the Court of Appeals McPherson v Auto-Owners (item number 197) which based its ruling on the Supreme Court's decision in Nickerson v Citizens Mutual. Judge Maher would hold that in order to be considered occupying the vehicle under §3106(c) there must be either physical contact with the vehicle at the time of the injury or occupancy of the vehicle immediately prior to the accident. In this case, the plaintiff was not in physical contact with the truck when he was injured. Furthermore, Judge Maher did not feel that plaintiff's occupancy of the vehicle was immediately prior to the mishap.
Judge Hood concurred solely on the basis that he did not believe there was sufficient "causal connection with the ownership, maintenance and use of the truck." Both Judge Hood and Judge Maher cited Block v Citizens Insurance Company (item number 460) with respect to this aspect of the holding.
Judge T.M. Burns dissented on the basis of McPherson and Nickerson. He felt that the plaintiff was "occupying" the truck within the meaning of §3106(c) because plaintiffs use of the steps was directly and integrally related to his use of the truck-trailer. Judge Burns stated, "to properly use the truck it was necessary for him to climb the stairs. This created the risk which caused plaintiffs injuries. His visual observation was an integral part of the parking process of the truck. Since plaintiff intended a continued use of his truck and had only momentarily alighted from it to perform duties necessary to the proper use of the truck, I would affirm the trial court."