Michigan Supreme Court Rules on Causal Connection Required to Receive No-Fault Benefits in Addressing Whether Plaintiff’s 2008 Spinal Cord Injury Suffered in a Motorcycle Accident Due to a Seizure “Arose Out Of” 2007 Motor Vehicle Accident in which Plaintiff Suffered a Brain Injury that Induced Seizures

In this recent opinion, the Michigan Supreme Court in a (5-1 opinion (Justice Cavanagh dissenting and Justice Viviano not participating)), rules that a plaintiff who was rendered a paraplegic after he suffered a seizure resulting in a crash while riding a motorcycle in 2008  was not entitled to no-fault benefits from the defendant insurance company, which paid benefits to him for the seizure inducing brain injury he suffered in a 2007 accident.  Plaintiff claimed he was entitled to no-fault benefits for the spinal cord injury suffered in the 2008 motorcycle accident because that injury “arose out of”the 2007 accident in which he suffered the brain injury.

The trial court denied the insurance company’s motion for summary disposition and the Court of Appeals affirmed.  After hearing oral argument on the insurance company’s application, the Supreme Court reversed.  The Court addressed “whether the spinal cord injury suffered in the 2008 injury ‘arose out of’ the 2007 accident for purposes of MCL 500.3105(1).”

The Court explains the causal connection required to receive no-fault benefits arising out of a motor vehicle accident:  “[A]n insurer is liable to pay benefits for accidental bodily injury only if those injuries ‘aris[e] out of’ or are caused by ‘the ownership, operation maintenance or use of a motor vehicle . . . .’ It is not any bodily injury that triggers an insurer’s liability under the no-fault act. Rather, it is only those injuries that are caused by the insured’s use of a motor vehicle.”  Citing Griffith v. State Farm Mut. Auto Ins. Co., 472 Mich. 521, 531 (2005).

The Court further explained that an injury arises out of the use of a motor vehicle as a motor vehicle when “the causal connection between the injury and the use of a motor vehicle as a motor vehicle is more than incidental, fortuitous, or ‘but for.’”  Citing Thornton v. Allstate Ins. Co., 425 Mich. 643, 659 (1986).

Here, the Court concludes the causal connection between the 2008 spinal cord injury and the 2007 accident is insufficient to satisfy the “arising out of” requirement of MCL 500.3105(1).  As explained by the Court:  “Plaintiff did not injure his spinal cord while using the vehicle in 2007.”

The Court continues:  “Rather, he injured it in the 2008 motorcycle crash, which was caused by his seizure, which was caused by his neurological disorder, which was caused by his use of a motor vehicle as a motor vehicle in 2007.  Under these circumstances, we believe that the 2008 injury is simply too remote and too attenuated from the earlier use of a motor vehicle to permit a finding that the causal connection between the 2008 injury and the 2007 accident ‘is more than incidental, fortuitous, or ‘but for.’”  Citing Thorntonsupra at 659.

Read the Court’s entire opinion here: McPherson v. McPherson

About cjtucker06

Owner of law firm since July 2014; Handles all types of appellate matters and assists other lawyers with complex litigation and insurance coverage issues; Admitted to the Supreme Court of the United States, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals and the State Bar of Michigan; Expertise in prosecuting and defending appeals with several significant successes in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, the Michigan Supreme Court and the Michigan Court of Appeals; Author of briefs amicus curiae in the Michigan Supreme Court for the Michigan Defense Trial Counsel and the Insurance Institute of Michigan; Represents Insurance Companies, Major International Business, Governmental Entities, Law Enforcement Officers and County Sheriffs. Board of Directors, Michigan Defense Trial Counsel Amicus Committee Co-Chair, Michigan Defense Trial Counsel Military - Retired Major in the Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps of the United States Army, Brigade Judge Advocate and Staff JAG officer for the Maneuver Training Center, Camp Grayling, Michigan; Recipient of the Army's Meritorious Service Medal (the highest medal of honor available to Soldiers serving in non-combat roles); 2012 Graduate of the Judge Advocate Officer Advanced Course, at The Judge Advocate Legal Center and School, Charlottesville, Virginia. United States Navy Reserves, Combat Warfare Qualification, January 1989 to July 2003 Former law clerk to Justice Stephen J. Markman, Michigan Supreme Court, Research Attorney, Michigan Court of Appeals. Insurance Coverage Associate Plunkett Cooney; Environmental Law Attorney at Squire Sanders, now Squire Patton Boggs; Master's Degree in Environmental Law; Environmental Law Scholar, ALI/ABA Washington, D.C., Juris Doctorate, Vermont Law School, Environmental Editor, Vermont Law Review; Treasurer and Finalist, Moot Court Advisory Board.
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