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Court of Appeals holds that insured was improperly summarily denied PIP benefits by Pioneer State Mutual

Betty Williams was  struck by a falling tree branch as she was getting into her parked car.  She was forced to sue her own insurer, Pioneer State Mutual Insurance Company, after it denied her PIP benefits (medical and limited wages and services) even though several prior cases had held that PIP benefits are payable to anyone hurt while "entering into" a vehicle (the specific statutory language).  The trial judge had granted Pioneer State Mutual summary disposition, holding that despite the strong precedents and statutory language, Williams should not be entitled to benefits because she wasn't "using her car as a car" when she was hurt.

The Court of Appeals rejected this analysis, pointed to the strong legal precedents interpreting the statutory language as it is written, and reversed the lower court. One (Republican) Judge on the panel dissented, arguing that recent Republican Supreme Court majority precedent should be applied to overturn the several precedents relied upon by Williams' attorneys.  He would grant PIP benefits only if someone entering, exiting or occupying a car is hurt while utilizing the car for its "transportation function."  In this case, I guess she'd need to prove she didn't intend to sleep in the car.

Republican judges claim they are big on "strict statutory construction" and following precedent---and thus avoiding "judicial activism"---unless the precedent and the wording of the statute allocate the cost of injury to an insurer.  If the latte occurs, they are good at finding activist reasons why precedent and strict construction should be discarded to leave the burden of injury on the insured.

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