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

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s