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Frankenmuth Ins Co v Progressive Michigan Ins Co; (COA-UNP, 3/19/2015; RB #3419)

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Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket #319855; Unpublished  
Judges M.J. Kelly, Murphy, and Hoekstra; Unanimous; Per Curiam  
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: Not Applicable; Link to Opinion  


STATUTORY INDEXING:
Exception for Motorcycle Injuries [§3114(5)]

TOPICAL INDEXING:
Not Applicable 


CASE SUMMARY:
In this unanimous unpublished per curiam Opinion involving a person riding a motorcycle who was “thrown” off the motorcycle, was immobile and was then struck within a few minutes by an oncoming van, the Court of Appeals held the injured person was a passenger of the motorcycle under MCL 500.3114(5) and, therefore, the insurer of the striking van was responsible for paying PIP benefits.

Plaintiff Frankenmuth Insurance filed an action against defendant Progressive Michigan to recover PIP benefits it had paid to the estate of Jeanine Serba. Serba was a passenger on a motorcycle that “took a spill” on a highway entrance ramp. Serba was thrown from the motorcycle onto the roadway, and was then struck and killed moments later by a van driven by Miguel Correa. Frankenmuth insured Serba, while Progressive insured Correa. Progressive claimed Frankenmuth was liable for PIP benefits as Serba’s personal insurer, and because Serba was no longer “a passenger or operator of a motorcycle” at the time she was struck by Corrrea’s van. Both parties moved for summary disposition, claiming the other was the higher priority insurer. The trial court granted Frankenmuth’s motion for summary disposition, finding that Progressive was obligated to pay benefits.

The Court of Appeals agreed that Progressive was responsible for PIP benefits, finding that Serba was a “passenger of a motorcycle” within the meaning of §3114(5). The court said:

“We glean from the plain language of MCL 500.3114(5) that the Legislature intended for subsection (5) to be triggered when there exists a direct correlation between the operation of a motorcycle, the operation of a motor vehicle, injuries arising from an accident involving the motor vehicle, and the injured party’s status as the operator or a passenger of the motorcycle.”

The Court of Appeals went on to find that a motorcycle operator or passenger does not have to incur “bodily injury” while actually “sitting or being on the motorcycle.” The court reasoned:

“Otherwise, … you could have a scenario in which, for example, a car directly struck a motorcycle on the roadway, which in and of itself did not result in an injury to the motorcycle’s operator or passenger, but which did result in the operator or passenger being ejected from the motorcycle and then sustaining injury when hitting the roadway’s pavement. Clearly, the Legislature contemplated application of MCL 500.3114(5) in that type of scenario. Additionally, we cannot conclude that the plain language of subsection (5) requires the motor vehicle to actually collide with or strike the motorcycle, nor does it require a motor vehicle to actually cause the motorcycle to crash. We find it beyond reasonable dispute that had Serba fallen or been thrown from the motorcycle and then struck almost immediately by a trailing motor vehicle, subsection (5) would be triggered. This is because there would exist, in that hypothetical situation, a direct correlation between the operation of a motorcycle, the operation of a motor vehicle, injuries arising from an accident involving the motor vehicle, and the injured party’s status as a passenger of the motorcycle.”

The Court of Appeals emphasized that only a few minutes passed between the time Serba was thrown to the pavement and was then struck by Correa’s van, and that during this time Serba was not moving.

Therefore, the Court of Appeals concluded:

“[T]here was a sufficiently direct correlation between the operation of a motorcycle, the operation of a motor vehicle, injuries arising from an accident involving the motor vehicle, and the injured party’s status as a passenger of the motorcycle. Accordingly, the trial court properly ruled that MCL 500.3114(5) was applicable and that Progressive, as Correa’s insurer, was the higher-priority insurer. Therefore, the trial court did not err in granting summary disposition in favor of Frankenmuth. We find Progressive’s arguments to the contrary unavailing.”


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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