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Swoffer v Carriers Insurance Company, et al; (SCC-UNP, 10/25/1978; RB #134)


Sanilac County Circuit Court; Docket No. 77-7076-CK; Unpublished   
Judge Allen E. Keyes; Written Opinion   
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: Not Applicable; Link to Opinion alt   

General Rule of Priority [§3114(1)]
Exception for Employer Provided Vehicles [§3114(3)]
Recoupment Between Equal Priority Insurers [§3115(2)]

Workers Disability Compensation Act (MCL 418.1, et seq.)   

In a written Opinion dealing with a complicated set of facts, Judge Keyes attempted to shed some light on the confusing question of priority of no-fault benefits in work-related auto accidents [§3114(1)(3)(4) and §3115].

The case involved a claim for no-fault survivors' benefits by the widow of an employee who was killed in a motor vehicle leased by his employer from a leasing company pursuant to a written lease which provided that the lessee (employer) would furnish and pay for all insurance. Judge Keyes held as follows:

1.    The widow's claim for survivors' benefits was controlled by the provisions of §3115 and not §3114(3) inasmuch as she was not an occupant of the employer's vehicle, thereby calling into play the nonoccupant priority provision.

2.    That under §3115(a) the insurer of the owner or registrants of the motor vehicle would be primarily liable for no-fault benefits, which in this case would mean that the leasing company as well as the employer would be equally liable for no-fault benefits absent any other considerations.

3.    However, due to the fact that the lease required the employer to furnish insurance, the leasing company was contractually excused from liability for no-fault benefits, thus making the employer's no-fault carrier primarily liable for said benefits.

4.    That the workers' compensation exclusive remedy rule does not absolve the employer's no-fault carrier from paying no-fault benefits. In so holding, Judge Keyes adopted the reasoning of Judge Danhof in Hawkins v Auto-Owners (item number 73) and the dissent of Judge Allen in Ottenwess v Hawkeye (item number 94) and rejected the conclusion of Mathis (item number 28) and the majority opinion in Ottenwess.

5.    The employer's no-fault carrier would be permitted to offset workers' compensation-benefits against the no-fault benefits pursuant to §3109(1) so as to avoid duplicative recovery.

Pursuant to the conclusions set forth above, the decedent's no-fault carrier and the leaving company's no-fault carrier were granted summary judgments absolving them from any no-fault liability.

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