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Luce v Gerow; (COA-PUB, 4/16/1979; RB #172)


Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket No. 78-1011; Published    
Judges T. M. Burns, Kelly, and Walsh  
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: 89 Mich App 546; Link to Opinion alt    

Serious Impairment of Body Function Definition (Pre-Cassidy Era – 1973-1982) [§3135(1)]  
Important Body Function Element of Serious Impairment (Pre-Cassidy Era – 1973-1982) [§3135(1)]  
Causation Issues [§3135]  
Mental Anguish PTSD Claims [§3135]

Legislative Purpose and Intent    

In a significant case of first impression, the Court of Appeals, in a unanimous decision written by Judge T. M. Burns, held that, as a matter of law, mental and emotional injuries are compensable under §3135(1) of the no-fault statute. The Court rejected the argument that the phrase "body function" was intended by the Legislature to exclude emotional and psychological injuries. The Court noted that "an injury to mental well-being can be as much an injury to a 'body function' as an injury to an arm or a leg."

This case involves an auto accident wherein plaintiff wife was driving a vehicle which was struck head-on by defendant resulting in serious permanent head injuries to plaintiff’s husband who was a passenger in her car. Plaintiff wife did not suffer any serious physical injuries but claimed that she suffered an emotional shock which resulted in physical symptoms from seeing her husband injured and as a reaction to his continuing poor condition.
The Court of Appeals began their analysis by concluding that the plaintiff wife's claim of negligent infliction of emotional distress was a recognized cause of action before the passage of the no-fault statute (i.e. plaintiff witnessed a grievous injury inflicted on her husband which caused a mental injury which resulted in definite and objective physical symptoms to plaintiff). In holding that this kind of cause of action is preserved under no-fault, the Court stated ''the Legislature did not intend to exclude the possibility of recovering from mental injuries resulting in physical symptoms by using the term 'body function'in §3135(1)."

The Court of Appeals also rejected the contention that plaintiff wife should not be able to recover under §3135(1) because she was not the "injured person." The Court held that that argument was deficient because it rested on the invalid assumption that the wife's injuries were somehow less real because they were mental and not physical. If the jury believes that the plaintiff wife was injured in her own right by witnessing and dealing with her husband's condition, then she is equally an "injured person" within the meaning of the statute.

[Author's Comment: The fact that the Court of Appeals held that the plaintiff wife was an "injured person" within the meaning of the statute lends credence to the support that loss of consortium claims should be recognized under the no-fault statute.]

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