May 2, 2017
Volume XXIX, No. 8

 

MICHIGAN COURT OF APPEALS AFFIRMS THE LIMITATIONS OF THE TRIAL COURT IN DETERMINING QUESTIONS OF FACT REGARDING SERIOUS IMPAIRMENTS

 By Melissa Mead

In the recent unpublished decision, Smith v Johnson, et al, (Docket No. 329285, 04/13/17), the Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed that where genuine issues of material fact exist, the trier of fact bears the burden of rendering factual findings. Because questions of material fact existed as to plaintiff Smith’s claims for uninsured motorist benefits and her claim that she suffered a serious impairment, the trial court erred in dismissing plaintiff’s claims.

On June 10, 2011, plaintiff Smith was injured in a motor vehicle accident wherein the allegedly at-fault vehicle disregarded a stop sign. Both the owner and operator of the at-fault vehicle were uninsured, and plaintiff sought uninsured motorist coverage under policies issued by defendant insurers. Plaintiff appealed the trial court’s granting of defendants’ motion for summary disposition where the trial court found that plaintiff failed to establish that her purported injuries affected her general ability to lead her normal life.

Because of the subject accident, plaintiff alleged to have sustained injuries to her lumbar spine with neurological impairment. The trial court agreed that the positive CT scan findings and complaints constituted an objectively manifested impairment of an important body function. For these alleged injuries, plaintiff underwent physical therapy, an L-5 discectomy and fusion of her L5 through S-1 vertebrae. Defendants argued that because plaintiff had spinal impairments prior to the accident in question, the new injuries would not have affected plaintiff’s “normal life.” The trial court agreed with defendants’ position.

The Michigan Court of Appeals, however, disagreed with the trial court in its dismissal of plaintiff’s claims, noting that the trial court erred in its decision by focusing on the causation of plaintiff’s limitations as opposed to the subjective impact they had on plaintiff’s pre-and-post accident life. Plaintiff suffered from prior cervical spine impairments, which had disabled her from employment at a school for a period of time. She was scheduled to resume employment just days before the subject accident, but elected to delay her return until the start of the upcoming school year. The neurosurgeon who performed the lumbar surgery after the accident confirmed plaintiff’s claims that her cervical pain was resolving. However, the medical records revealed that plaintiff lacked functional mobility of her lumbar spine following the accident in question, and further supported the argument that her limitations differed in kind and severity following the accident in question. Consequently, the Court of Appeals found the issue of whether plaintiff Smith suffered a serious impairment as a result of her lumbar spine injuries was to be determined by the trier of fact and the trial court erred in dismissing plaintiff’s claims.

Melissa is an Associate in our Detroit Office. She can be reached at 313.446.1530 or mmead@garanlucow.com

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MAY 18, 2017

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Indianapolis, IN 46240

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This complimentary Deposition Boot Camp would be presented to a group of 10 or more in your office, as a half-day session.

This is an ideal presentation for new claim representatives. Based upon decades of experience, each Boot Camp addresses the Plaintiff’s reasons and motivations for deposing claims professionals, what needs to be done to prepare for the deposition, how to conduct oneself during a deposition, and practical “do’s and don’t’s” for claims professionals before and during the deposition. Practical demonstrations and participation in role-play scenarios complement and complete the presentation.

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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