Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket #304622; Published (Publication Status Granted 9/3/2013)
Judges Cavanagh, Sawyer, and Saad; Unanimous; Per Curiam
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: Not Applicable; Link to Opinion
In this unanimous per curiam published Opinion involving an accident where the motorcycle and the motor vehicle never actually came in contact with each other, the Court of Appeals held the motor vehicle was not sufficiently “involved” in the accident within the meaning of MCL 500.3114(5) to trigger no-fault coverage under the provisions of MCL 500.3105(1) for the motorcyclist, who was injured when he tried to avoid hitting the oncoming motor vehicle.
The appeals court ruled the causal connection between the motorcyclist’s injuries and the motor vehicle was “passive” and “merely incidental, fortuitous, or ‘but for’” and, therefore, the “arising out of” causation standard in §3105(1) was not satisfied.
Plaintiff hospital treated a motorcyclist for injuries he sustained when his motorcycle fishtailed while trying to avoid hitting an oncoming car. The motorcycle never actually came in contact with the vehicle during the accident. Plaintiff filed this action to recover PIP benefits from defendant, the motorcyclist’s no-fault insurer. The trial court ruled the vehicle was sufficiently involved in the accident to allow plaintiff to collect PIP benefits.
The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the motor vehicle was not sufficiently involved in the accident to allow no-fault coverage. While the court noted there is no “iron-clad rule” about what level of involvement is needed to trigger PIP benefits, the court emphasized:
“For a motor vehicle to be involved in an accident, it ‘must actively, as opposed to passively, contribute to the accident,’ and have ‘more than a random association with the accident scene.’”
In this case, the Court of Appeals said there was no causal connection between the motorcyclist’s injuries and the use of the motor vehicle as a motor vehicle. The court said:
“[T]here is no evidence that the motorcyclist needed to take evasive action to avoid the motor vehicle. Rather, the evidence only established that the motorcyclist was startled when he saw the approaching headlights and overreacted to the situation. And while fault is not a relevant consideration in determining whether a motor vehicle is involved in an accident for purposes of no-fault benefits, … we believe that principle is limited to not considering fault in the cause of the accident, not whether the motor vehicle was actually involved in the accident. That is, had the motorcycle actually collided with the motor vehicle, we would not consider whether the motorcyclist or the motor vehicle driver was at fault in causing the accident, nor would we consider whether the motorcyclist could have taken evasive action and avoided the accident. But, where there is no actual collision between the motorcycle and the motor vehicle, we cannot say that the motor vehicle was involved in the accident merely because of the motorcyclist’s subjective, erroneous perceived need to react to the motor vehicle. Rather, for the motor vehicle to be considered involved in the accident, the operation of the motor vehicle must have created an actual need for the motorcyclist to take evasive action. That is, there must be some activity by the motor vehicle that contributes to the happening of the accident beyond its mere presence. … Because the facts of this case did not support the conclusion that there was an actual, objective need for the motorcyclist to take evasive action, we conclude that the trial court erred by determining that the motorcyclist’s injuries arose out of the use of a motor vehicle as a motor vehicle and that the motor vehicle was sufficiently involved in the accident to entitle the motorcyclist to personal protection insurance benefits under the no-fault act.”
Accordingly, the Court of Appeals remanded the case to the trial court, with instructions to enter judgment for defendant.