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A Better Partnership
June 16, 2017

MSC broadens parked-car exception to the Michigan no-fault insurance act

In Daniel Kemp v. Farm Bureau General Insurance Company of Michigan, No. 151719, the Michigan Supreme Court of reversed the Court of Appeals and overruled Shellenberger v Insurance Co. of North America, holding that a man who had injured himself while unloading a bundle from his parked truck raised sufficient issues of material fact to survive a motion for summary judgment.
 
Following his injury removing personal property from his parked car at his home, Plaintiff sued his auto insurer, seeking no-fault benefits for the injuries he sustained.  Defendant moved for summary disposition, arguing that Plaintiff’s injuries did not meet the three-prong test established in Putkamer v. Transamerica Insurance Corp. of America, 454 Mich 626 (1997), requiring:
 
1.The claimant to demonstrate that his or her conduct fits within the exceptions of MCL 500.3106(1)


2.The injury arises from the “ownership, operation, maintenance or use of the parked vehicle as a motor vehicle”; and


3.That the injury had a causal relationship to the parked motor vehicle that is more than incidental, fortuitous or but for.
 
The trial court granted Defendant’s motion, and Plaintiff appealed.  The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s decision, with Judge Bekkering dissenting. 
 
Plaintiff then brought this appeal before the Michigan Supreme Court.  The Court determined that while activities involving a parked car are usually excluded from invoking no fault insurance benefits,  MCL 500.3106(1)(b) provides an exception for property being loaded or unloaded from the vehicle.
 
The Court went on to overrule Shellenberger v. Insurance Co. of North America, 182 Mich App 601 (1990), which had previously required the injurious activity at issue to “result from” the vehicles transportation function, which the Shellenberger court had also conflated with the normal functioning of a motor vehicle. The Supreme Court instead adopted a broader interpretation of what is closely related to the transportation function of a vehicle to include loading and unloading items from the vehicle. 
 
Finally, because MCL 500.3106(1)(b) contains a causation requirement itself (“the injury must be the direct result of physical contact) and because there was a question of fact as to if contact with the bundle while unloading had caused the claimant’s injury, there was also a question of fact as to if the injury was more than incidental, fortuitous, or but for.
 
Justice Zahra was joined by Chief Justice Markman and Justice Wilder in his dissent that contended no issue of material fact was raised. 
 

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