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Gutierrez v Dairyland Insurance Company et al; (COA-PUB, 10/6/1981; RB #454)

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Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket No. 50996; Published  
Judges R. B. Burns, Maher, and Kallman; Unanimous  
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: 110 Mich App 126; Link to Opinion alt   


STATUTORY INDEXING:  
Entitlement to PIP Benefits: Arising Out of / Causation Requirement [§3105(1)]  
Exclusion for Vehicles Considered Parked [§3106(1)]  
Exception to General Priority for Non-Occupants [§3115(1)]  
Determination of Involved Vehicle [§3115]  
When Claimants Can Receive PIP Benefits Through the Assigned Claims Facility [§3172(1)]

TOPICAL INDEXING:
Legislative Purpose and Intent   


CASE SUMMARY:  
This lengthy, unanimous Opinion by Judge Maher contains an interesting analysis of the interrelationship between §3105(1) and the parked vehicle exclusions contained in §3106 of the Act. The plaintiff in this case was a gas station attendant who sustained serious injuries when he was struck by an uninsured vehicle while pumping gas into a stationary vehicle. The parties stipulated that the stationary vehicle into which gas was being pumped was "parked." The trial court then went on to analyze the question of the availability of no-fault benefits based upon the parked vehicle exclusions of §3106 (b) and the interpretation of that section by the Court of Appeals in Heard v State Farm (item number 238).

On appeal, the Court of Appeals held that the parked vehicle exclusions have no applicability whatsoever to this kind of accident The Court ruled that under §3105(1), plaintiff’s injuries arose out of the ownership, operation, maintenance or use of the uninsured motor vehicle which ran into plaintiff as he was pumping gas. Having determined that, the Court then analyzed whether the fact that a "parked" vehicle was also involved in the accident, disqualifies plaintiff from recovering benefits unless he can fall into one of the three favored subsections of §3106. In order for that to happen, the injuries must "arise out of" the parked vehicle. Citing interpretative case law, the Court ruled that there was not a sufficient causal connection between the parked vehicle and plaintiff's injuries. The Court stated, "Plaintiff’s injuries were not foreseeably identifiable with the act of pumping gasoline into an automobile. The relationship between this act and the injury sustained was merely incidental and fortuitous." Thus, because plaintiff’s injuries did not arise out of the parked vehicle, it was not necessary to determine if one of the three subsections applied. The case was simply one where the plaintiff’s injuries arose out of the operation of the moving vehicle and thus, plaintiff was entitled to recover benefits under §3105(1) without regard to the provisions of §3106.

In so holding, the Court made a very significant observation regarding the applicability of the parked vehicle exclusions. The Court stated:

"As the above analysis reveals, the parked vehicle exclusion of §3106 will seldom apply to cases where there is an accident involving both a parked and an imparked vehicle. This is so because in cases such as the instant case, the accident would most often not have occurred except for the intervention of the moving vehicle. Under such circumstances, the relationship between the parked vehicle and the injuries will quite often be incidental or fortuitous and the direct cause of the injury will be the moving vehicle. While we do not suggest that it would never be possible to conclude that injuries arose out of the ownership, operation, etc. of a parked vehicle in an accident involving both a parked and imparked vehicle, it does appear that the parked vehicle exclusion will most often be applicable to situations where only a parked vehicle is involved."

Having determined that the plaintiff was entitled to recover benefits under §3105(1) the Court then went on to determine the question of priority of benefits. The Court applied the nonoccupant provisions of §3115(1) of the Act which provide that nonoccupants recover no-fault benefits from the insurers of the owners or registrants of the motor vehicles involved in the accident, and if nothing is available from that source, then from the insurers of operators of motor vehicles involved in the accident. It is interesting to note that the Court applied the nonoccupant provisions without any discussion as to whether or not plaintiff might be considered an occupant of the vehicle into which he was pumping gas. In any event, the Court ruled that both the moving vehicle and the stationary vehicle were "involved" in this accident. The Court stated that, "The term 'involved' is much broader than the phrase 'arise out of and a motor vehicle can clearly be involved in an accident even though it could not be said that a person's injuries arose out of the ownership, operation, etc. of that vehicle." Thus, since both vehicles were involved, plaintiff was required to look first to the insurers of the owners or registrants of the vehicle.

In this particular case, the moving vehicle was uninsured. Thus, the only insurance available to the loss was that which applied to the stationary vehicle. Apparently, plaintiff never applied for insurance from that source but rather sought insurance from the Assigned Claims Facility. The Court held that under §3172 of the Act, the Assigned Claims Facility was not liable as there was other no-fault coverage applicable to this loss from the insurer of the stationary vehicle. Thus, any no-fault benefits must be obtained from that source only.


Lansing car accident lawyer 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 SinasDramis.com.

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