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Thornton v Kelley; (COA-PUB, 6/5/1984; RB #738)


Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket No. 67926  
Judges Cynar, Gillis, and Anderson; Per Curiam  
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: 135 Mich App 160; Link to Opinion alt    

Entitlement to PIP Benefits: Arising Out of / Causation Requirement [§3105(1)]

Not Applicable    

In this important per curiam Opinion, the Court of Appeals awarded no-fault benefits under §3105(1) to a cab driver who had been shot and paralyzed from the neck down by a customer who entered the back seat of the cab and, without warning, shot plaintiff in the neck. The incident occurred when plaintiff picked up the assailant at a residential address pursuant to receiving a call over his radio informing him of the fare. Immediately after the shooting, the assailant demanded plaintiffs money and obtained about $15. Immediately thereafter, by previous arrangement and with the help of an accomplice, the assailant removed plaintiff from the cab, dragged him across the street, striped him of his coat and shirt and left him half naked in the snow. The plaintiff survived the ordeal but will require comprehensive medical care for the rest of his life because of his complete paralysis. Additional facts developed during discovery to reveal that another cab driver working for the same company as plaintiff had been killed a few years earlier during a robbery.

The trial court held, as a matter of law, that plaintiffs injuries arose out of the use of the taxicab and that the use of the taxicab was the proximate cause of the plaintiffs injuries. The Court of Appeals affirmed and relied upon the Supreme Court's decision in Gajewski v Auto-Owners (item number 568). In affirming the trial court, the Court of Appeals focused on the fact that it was not the individual plaintiff per se who was the subject of the assault but rather the operator of the cab, whoever he would have been. This was not one of those assault cases where the assailant knew the victim and it was the specific victim was the object of the assault. The Court stated, "in the instant case, plaintiff would not have been injured had he not been driving the taxicab dispatched on this particular call. The assailants planned to rob the taxicab and its driver, regardless of who was driving it. The injuries would not have occurred had plaintiff not been driving the cab. Being dispatched to and picking up fares who are strangers must be identified with the normal operation of a taxicab. Since we find a direct causal connection between the use of the motor vehicle and plaintiffs injuries, plaintiffs injuries are compensable under the No-Fault Act. Affirmed."

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