June 27, 2017
Volume XXIX, No. 16

 

MICHIGAN SUPREME COURT HOLDS UNLOADING
PERSONAL PROPERTY UPON ARRIVAL
SATISFIES THE TRANSPORTATIONAL FUNCTION TEST

 By Emily L. Partridge

In Kemp v Farm Bureau, ___ Mich ___ (June 15, 2017) (Docket No 151719), a 4-3 decision, the Michigan Supreme Court held, as a matter of law, that an injury while unloading personal items from a motor vehicle upon arrival at the destination satisfies the transportational function test set forth in Putkamer v Transamerica Ins Corp of America, 454 Mich 626, 635-636; 563 NW2d 683 (1997). The Supreme Court also held, however, that the plaintiff had created a question of fact as to whether he satisfied the parked motor vehicle exception in MCL 500.3106(1)(b) and whether his injuries were the “direct result” of physical contact with the objects he was unloading at the time of his injury, and thus the Court remanded the case back to the trial court.

In Kemp, plaintiff finished working and placed his briefcase, overnight bag, thermos, and lunchbox on the floor behind the driver’s seat of his 2010 Chevy Silverado 1500 extended cab pick-up truck. He then drove home. After arriving, he parked in his driveway, stepped out of his vehicle, opened the rear door, reached into the vehicle for his belongings, and allegedly sustained injury to his low back and calf muscle as he was lowering them from the motor vehicle. Farm Bureau denied his claim for PIP no-fault benefits, and plaintiff filed suit. The trial court granted Farm Bureau’s motion for summary disposition and the appellate court affirmed.

Michigan law follows a three step framework to analyze coverage for injuries related to parked motor vehicles such as the one at issue in Kemp. First, the plaintiff must demonstrate that “his or her conduct fits one of the three exceptions of MCL 500.3106(1).” Second, the plaintiff must establish that the “injury arose out of the ownership, operation, maintenance, or use of the parked motor vehicle as a motor vehicle.” This step is otherwise known as the transportational function test. Third, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the “injury had a causal relationship to the parked motor vehicle that is more than incidental, fortuitous, or but for.”

Applying this framework to the facts before it, the Kemp Court first analyzed whether plaintiff’s conduct fell within one of the three parked motor vehicle exceptions, particularly MCL 500.3106(1)(b), which provides coverage when “the injury was a direct result of physical contact with… property being lifted onto or lowered from the vehicle in the loading or unloading process.” The Court noted that plaintiff was in physical contact with his property and was lowering it from the vehicle when he sustained the injury. However, the Court held that there was a question of fact as to whether a reasonable jury could find that the plaintiff’s injury was the “direct result” of physical contact with the property, i.e. “due to” the physical contact with the property. The Court noted it was a question for a jury to determine whether the size and weight of the objects being lifted or lowered were sufficient to cause the alleged injury.

The Kemp Court then addressed whether plaintiff had satisfied the transportational function requirement. The Court determined that conveying one’s belongings is closely related to – if not an integral part of – the transportational function of a motor vehicle. Noting the Court of Appeals had relied heavily upon Shellenberger v Ins Co of North America, 182 Mich App 601 (1990), the Supreme Court overruled Shellenberger to the extent it is inconsistent with the Supreme Court’s opinion. Because plaintiff sustained his injury while unloading his belongings from his vehicle upon arriving at his house, the Kemp Court found the transportational function requirement was satisfied.

Finally, the Kemp Court analyzed whether the injury had a causal relationship to the parked motor vehicle that was more than incidental, fortuitous, or but for. The Court opined that plaintiff’s injury was foreseeably identifiable with the normal use of a motor vehicle, but because section 3106(1)(b) contains its own causation component, and because the Court had already determined that there was a question of fact as to the “direct result” requirement, there was also a question of fact whether plaintiff’s injury had a causal relation to the use of the motor vehicle as a motor vehicle that was more than incidental, fortuitous, or but for.

Emily is a Shareholder in our Grand Rapids Office.

She can be reached at 616.742.5500 or epartridge@garanlucow.com

 

SEMINARS

BASICS OF MICHIGAN AUTOMOBILE
NO-FAULT INSURANCE LAW COURSE

Garan Lucow Miller, P.C. is pleased again to offer this in-depth, educational course to our clients. It will be taught each Tuesday evening, from September 19, 2017 through November 21, 2017, from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

This year the 9 week course will take place at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, 925 South Creyts Road, Lansing, MI 48917

The cost of the 9 week course is $350.00 per person, with a discount of $50.00 per person for more than 2 registrants from the same company.

Please contact Eileen Carty to register at ecarty@garanlucow.com or (248) 641-7600.

GARAN LUCOW MILLER, P.C.
IS OFFERING

FRAUD AWARENESS TRAINING CAMP

This complimentary Fraud Awareness Training Camp will introduce claims professionals to practical aspects of identifying and litigating fraud in claims. Attendees will also learn Michigan law as it applies to fraud in claims.

Please contact Eileen Carty at ecarty@garanlucow.com or (248) 641-7600, to schedule a complimentary in-house presentation.

For inquires, upcoming seminars, or in-house seminar requests please contact Eileen Carty at ecarty@garanlucow.com

Sarah Nadeau, Editor of the Law Fax Publication,

is a Shareholder in our Detroit Office.

Sarah can be reached at 313.446.1530 or snadeau@garanlucow.com

 

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