Court of Appeals reinstates "serious impairment" auto case
Scott Lindeblad was struck from the rear by another vehicle in a three-vehicle collision. Lindeblad developed severe back pain, receiving extensive treatment, however, the consulting physicians could not agree whether his problems were caused by trauma or degenerative disc disease (or both). Lindeblad underwent 16 months of treatment that included a functional capacity assessment that limited him to lifting no more than 10 pounds. The latter limitation precluded him from returning to his former employment as a kiln worker for more than a year.
Lindeblad sued the at-fault driver but his case was dismissed. The Circuit Court held that he had not provided proof of an "objective manifestation" of a "serious impairment of bodily function." The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the extensive medical documentation of his injury and treatment, and the opinions of several treaters that his difficulties were the result of motor vehicle trauma, created a material issue of fact. The Court noted that the "objective manifestation" requirement is not some form of magical analysis: it is defined as "an impairment that is evidenced by actual symptoms or conditions that someone other than the injured person would observe or perceive as impairing a body function."
The case was returned to Alger County Circuit Court for a jury to decide whether Lindeblad had established a serious impairment. This case may get to the Supreme Court before it gets to a jury, however, as the Court of Appeals decision relies heavily on the McCormick definition of serious impairment; a definition that Republican, insurance-friendly Justices would like to extinguish.