Michigan Court of Appeals Clarifies Parked Vehicle Exclusion of No-Fault Act

Michigan Court of Appeals Clarifies Parked Vehicle Exclusion of No-Fault Act

In an unpublished opinion, the Michigan Court of Appeals found that an exception applied to the parked car exclusion of the No-Fault Act to provide Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage in a case in which a stretcher overturned while attempting to load a patient into an ambulance.

In Djeljaj v American Alternative Insurance Corporation, 2023 WL 3556897, while being transferred from one medical facility to another, the Plaintiff was purportedly injured when the stretcher to which he was strapped flipped onto its side, causing his head and shoulder to strike the pavement, as the emergency medical technicians attempted to lift the stretcher into an ambulance.

In the trial court, in lieu of answering the Plaintiff’s Complaint for PIP benefits, the Defendant moved for summary disposition under MCR 2.116(C)(10), in relevant part, arguing that the Plaintiff did not adequately brief the transportational function and causal relationship requirements for liability under the applicable parked vehicle exception. The trial court agreed, ruling in favor of the Defendant.

The No-Fault Act, at MCL 500.3105(1), provides that an insurer is liable to pay benefits for accidental bodily injury arising out of the ownership, operation, maintenance or use of a motor vehicle as a motor vehicle. However, the parked vehicle exclusion, at MCL 500.3106(1), provides that “[a]ccidental bodily injury does not arise out of the ownership, operation, maintenance or use of a parked vehicle as a motor vehicle.” There are three exceptions to the parked vehicle exception:

• MCL.500.3106(1)(a) provides an exception if “the vehicle was parked in such a way as to cause unreasonable risk of the bodily injury which occurred.”
• MCL 500.3106(1)(b) provides an exception if “the injury was a direct result of physical contact with equipment permanently mounted on the vehicle, while the equipment was being operated or used, or property being lifted onto or lowered from the vehicle in the loading or unloading process.”
• MCL 500.3106(1)(c) provides an exception if “the injury was sustained by a person while occupying, entering into, or alighting from the vehicle.” 1

In addition to fitting one of the three exceptions, the Plaintiff must show that the injury arose out of the ownership, operation, maintenance or use of the parked motor vehicle as a motor vehicle and also that the injury had a causal relationship to the parked motor vehicle that is more than incidental, fortuitous or “but for.”

The Court of Appeals found that the trial court erred in interpreting precedent for the applicability of MCL 500.3106(1)(b) to require that the Plaintiff owned or possessed the property; be in physical contact with the property; either be lifting it from or onto the vehicle; and that he was injured due to physical contact with that property. The Court’s reasoning included rejecting the Defendant’s argument that the Plaintiff was not entitled to PIP benefits because his injuries arose from contact with the ground rather than the stretcher, distinguishing a previous case involving a fall during the loading/unloading process. The Court decided that this exception applied, finding that the claimed injury was caused by the “single, unbroken and immediate course of events” of being in contact with, and indeed strapped to, the stretcher and that the evidence suggested that the injury was a direct result of physical contact with the stretcher as it was being lifted onto the ambulance in the loading process.

The Court of Appeals also found that the facts met the transportational function requirement of MCL 500.3106(1)(b) that the injury arise out of the ownership, operation, maintenance or use of the parked vehicle as a motor vehicle, citing the Michigan Supreme Court’s decision in Kemp v Farm Bureau Gen Ins Co of Mich, 500 Mich 245, 258 (2017), which supported that the critical inquiry is “whether the injury is closely related to the transportational function of the motor vehicle.” In so finding, the Court rejected the trial court’s conclusion that the Plaintiff’s claim failed on this element for lack of proper briefing, noting that, among other procedural issues, the Plaintiff cited case law regarding the primary purpose of vehicles being for conveyance of people or objects and that the conveyance of the stretcher to which he was attached was closely related to this transportational function. The Court also stated that case law supported that when a person is injured while entering a parked vehicle with the intention of traveling, the vehicle is being used as a motor vehicle as a matter of law and that, in this case, the Plaintiff claimed injury while the technicians were in the process of loading the stretcher to which he was strapped into the ambulance to transfer him to another medical center. Since the Plaintiff was being loaded into the ambulance for the purpose of transportation, he was “clearly using the vehicle for its transportational function.”

Finally, the Court of Appeals also found that the trial court erred in finding that the Plaintiff abandoned the required element regarding the requisite causal relationship to meet the MCL 500.3106(1)(b) exception. The Court noted that the primary purpose of an ambulance is to provide transportation to people in need of medical attention and found it axiomatic that providing such transportation would require entering the ambulance, often by way of a stretcher. The Court rejected the defense’s argument that the ambulance was only in “fortuitous proximity” of the Plaintiff’s fall, indicating that the theory might be more persuasive if the stretcher had fallen due to a mechanical failure or defect in pavement versus the undisputed evidence that the stretcher tipped due to the manner the technicians attempted to load it into the ambulance.

At the trial court level, the Plaintiff had to deal with a res judicata issue created by the fact that a provider had filed a separate case for medical expenses in which the same court granted summary disposition for the same reasons as in the subject dispositive motion. However, with the res judicata issue handled at the trial court, on appeal, without even considering exception MCL 500.3106(1)(c), the Court of Appeals found that the presented facts of a patient strapped to a stretcher, injured while being loaded into an ambulance, satisfied the elements required for the MCL 500.3106(1)(b) exception.

1 The Court of Appeals declined to address this exception since it was not properly preserved for appeal.


Joel Ashton, a partner with the law firm of Cummings, McClorey, Davis & Acho, P.L.C., focuses his practice on insurance defense, including Michigan No-Fault claims (PIP, automobile negligence, uninsured/ underinsured motorist), as well as premises liability and general negligence. His practice also includes the defense of contract and liability claims, contract interpretation issues, subrogation claims involving automobile, fire and casualty, commercial and related coverage. Mr. Ashton maintains an AV Preeminent Rating from Martindale-Hubbell, which is the highest possible rating an attorney can achieve for both ethical standards and legal ability. He may be reached at (734) 261-2400 or jashton@cmda-law.com.


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