Four Michigan Supreme Court Justices (Young, Markman, Kelly and Zahra) issued a decision changing 30 years of No-Fault Insurance law finding that automobile insurance companies no longer need pay No-Fault benefits to a person who is injured while closing their car door.
In Frasier v Allstate, the claimant, Mona Lisa Frasier had put some personal belongings in the passenger side of her car and was in the process of closing her car door when she fell on some ice and was injured. Mona Lisa made a claim with her car insurance company, Allstate to get her medical bills paid. Why? because the the Michigan No-Fault statute says the car insurer has to pay for your medical care if you are hurt as “a direct result of physical contact with equipment permanently mounted on the vehicle[,]” or if the injury occurs “while occupying, entering into, or alighting from the vehicle.”
Since the law was passed more than 30 years ago everyone thought this meant that insurance companies had to cover a claim so long as a person was actually touching the car (as they got in or out) when they were hurt. Nope. Justices Young, Markman, Kelly and Zahra figured that everyone else has been wrong all these years. You see, a car door is not actually “equipment permanently mounted on the vehicle.” Hunh??
Next, these Justices decided that Mona Lisa was no longer “alighting from the vehicle” because she had both feet on the ground. That makes sense. After all, I guess she could have just left the door open as she drove down the road or went into her office.
Attorney Dave Mittleman summed it up best:
The Court’s linguistic gymnastics are reminiscent of the NFL’s baffling “process of the catch” rules. Regardless of whether a “football move” is required or when exactly a catch is completed and the receiver becomes a runner, ordinary fans watching the play are frequently dumbfounded by the officials’ ruling. The same seems to be true with the Michigan Supreme Court, which has again defied conventional wisdom to reach the result they wanted in the first place.
Happy Holidays, insurance companies! Enjoy your gift of increased profits from your friends at the Michigan Supreme Court. If you agree that a door is not a door or that there is no need to actually close your car door when you get out of your car then make sure to vote for these judges this coming November. If you think this is actually a little nutty then don’t. Either way I am certain that Allstate and the other Michigan Car Insurance Companies will continue to support these Justices in the upcoming election.