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Bauman v Auto-Owners; (COA-PUB, 3/21/1984; RB #724)


Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket No. 72089; Published  
Judges Allen, Maher, and Bell; Unanimous; Opinion by Judge Bell  
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: 133 Mich App 101; Link to Opinion alt    

Entitlement to PIP Benefits: Arising Out of / Causation Requirement [§3105(1)]  
Exclusion for Vehicles Considered Parked [§3106(1)]  
Exception for Loading / Unloading [§3106(1)(b)]  
Exception for Occupying [§3106(1)(c)]  
Causal Connection Requirement [§3106]

Not Applicable   

In this unanimous Opinion by Judge Bell, the Court of Appeals reversed summary judgment entered in favor of defendant and ruled that plaintiff had stated a viable cause of action for no-fault first-party benefits where plaintiff sustained a back injury moving boxes in the rear of a semi-trailer during the course of an unloading operation. Plaintiff was required to drive a semi-truck and also to aid in the unloading of the truck's trailer. Plaintiff was injured while he was moving boxes to the door of the trailer at which point they were to be picked up by another employee. As plaintiff pulled a box off a skid, he injured his back. Defendant denied no-fault benefits on the basis that plaintiffs injury did not "arise out of” the ownership, operation, maintenance or use of a motor vehicle under §3105 of the Act

There was no dispute that plaintiff's injury was covered under the parked vehicle provisions of §31069(c) in that plaintiff was "occupying” the vehicle at the time of his injury. In reversing the trial court's ruling that there was an insufficient causal connection with the motor vehicle the Court relied on the Federal District Court opinion in BASF Wyandotte Corp v Transport Ins Co (item number 485). Quoting with approval from the BASF case, the Court stated that "use of a motor vehicle" as a motor vehicle must include the loading and unloading of the vehicle. . . .The term 'use' should be understood in its most comprehensive sense, and clearly is not confined merely to motion on the highway. It extends to any activity utilizing the insured vehicle in the manner intended or contemplated by the insured. A tank truck would be of no use were it not loaded and unloaded.... Where the motor vehicle in question is a tank truck, as here, and loading and unloading are inherent in its use, as here, then it is clear that it is covered by the statutory language." Even though BASF dealt with property protection insurance benefits, the Court found it applicable to this case. The Court concluded by saying, "inherent in the use of the semi-truck and trailer plaintiff was operating was the loading and unloading of merchandise. As such, plaintiff’s injury was causally related to the use of a motor vehicle."

[Author's Comment: The Court noted in footnote 1 that had plaintiffs injury occurred after December 31,1981, plaintiff's action would have been precluded by the amendment to §3106(2) which precludes recovery of PIP benefits in loading/unloading accidents occurring during the course of employment]

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