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Court holds trial judge wrongly dismissed Uninsured Motorist Claim because it wasn't joined in prior PIP action

Anderson Miles was struck by a car while crossing Schaeffer Highway in Detroit.  State Farm, his mother's insurer, argued that it did not owe him coverage, and he was forced to sue to compel payment of his medical expenses (part of Personal Injury Protection or "PIP" coverage for all members of a family household).  Two years later he was forced to sue again for medical expenses and this time he joined an Uninsured Motorist Claim under his mother's policy.

State Farm argued that since he could have joined the UM claim in his original PIP lawsuit, the principle of res judicata applied and he should be foreclosed from bringing a second related lawsuit against State Farm.  The trial judge agreed and dismissed his case.  The Court of Appeals overturned this decision with one judge dissenting.  The higher court noted the short PIP statute of limitations ("one year back"), the fact that fault and serious impairment are not issues in a PIP case, and the need to act promptly to secure coverage for medical expenses, and concluded that UM claims are sufficiently different that a PIP action does not require the joinder of a UM claim.  The dissenting judge would hold that the injured victim must file a UM claim within one year, where PIP benefits are disputed, even if that would jeopardize the insured's right to compensation because he or she could not yet meet the threshold of "serious impairment of a bodily function."

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