Michigan Supreme Court Hears Oral Argument on the Parked Vehicle Exception in No-Fault Case

In limited circumstances, a person injured by the ownership, operation, maintenance, or use of a parked car can receive Michigan No-Fault benefits. For example, a person can receive benefits under No-Fault if injured when a car is parked in a way that causes unreasonable risk of bodily injury, while in the car or getting in/out of the car, loading/unloading the car or where injured by the use of equipment permanently attached to a car or truck. No-Fault benefits are not available for parked car injuries if the injury is compensable under workman’s compensation or similar laws.

Though the No-Fault Act indicates that someone should receive benefits where “the injury was a direct result of … property being lifted onto or lowered from the vehicle in loading or unloading process,” in 1998, the Michigan Court of Appeals, in McKenzie v Auto Club Ins Ass’n, made the question more difficult when it held that the injury must also be “closely related to the transportational function of automobiles.” A recent case has brought the issue before the Michigan Supreme Court. In Kemp v Farm Bureau General Ins. Co. of Michigan, the Michigan Court of Appeals approved a trial court’s denial of No-Fault benefits to a person who tore his calf muscle when removing a briefcase, an overnight bag and a thermos from the floor of the back seat of his truck. However, one of the three appeals court judges disagreed, arguing that if the legislature found that there should be benefits for injuries that are a direct result of property being lifted onto or lowered from the vehicle in the unloading process, the injured person should receive No-Fault benefits. Mr. Kemp has now filed a leave application to the Michigan Supreme Court, which heard oral argument on the case on October 6, 2016. We now await the Michigan Supreme Court’s decision on whether No-Fault benefits are available in this circumstance.

While this case seems to fit within the “parked vehicle exception” to the No-Fault Act, it illustrates the significance highly-nuanced facts can have on whether or not someone qualifies for No-Fault benefits. For example, the Michigan Court of Appeals has previously held that where a person was injured by reaching for a briefcase while sitting in his parked car, he was not entitled to No-Fault benefits. Shellenberger v Insurance Co of North America (1990). No matter the Michigan Supreme Court’s ultimate decision in the Kemp case, it shows the importance of obtaining guidance from legal counsel when considering your options if you have a potential Michigan No-Fault claim. The law firm of Numinen, DeForge & Mathieu, PC represents people injured by at-fault drivers under the Michigan No-Fault Act. The firm represents clients throughout the Upper Peninsula, including Marquette, Houghton, Sault Ste. Marie, Escanaba, Menominee and Iron Mountain. To speak to an attorney, please contact Phil Toutant at phillip@numinenlaw.com or at (906) 226-2580.

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