Court of Appeals reverses Livingston County judge and reinstates "serious impairment" claimJeffrey Williamson suffered a badly comminuted fracture of his right knee cap when a young man crossed the centerline and struck his car head-on. The Defendant, David Thompson, died in the collision. Williamson filed suit against the Estate, seeking insurance compensation from Thompson's no fault insurer. The insurer argued that Williamson could not pursue a claim because he had not suffered a "life-altering serious impairment of bodily function." The trial judge agreed but the Court of Appeals reversed, sending the case back for a jury's determination.
Williamson was in an immobilizer for three months and his work activity was restricted. He endured three rounds of physical therapy without improvement before undergoing arthroscopic surgery. He has returned to most of his life's activities, however, he endures pretty constant pain and the use of his knee is limited in many activities. The appellate court noted initially that there is a factual dispute over whether Williamson's patellar tendon was damaged in addition to the severe fracturing of the knee cap: no judge may decide this type of factual issue on summary disposition.
Further, the court noted that even under the "Engler Majority's" aggressive, activist "life-altering" interpretation of the statutory "serious impairment" requirement, a question of fact was presented for the jury. Noted the number of restrictions and impairments he alleged in the use of his knee--both for employment and for daily activities--the Court held that it was inappropriate for the trial judge to summarily dismiss his claim. While the Court could not hold that his injury was serious "as a matter of law," the allegations were serious enough to warrant a decision by the jury.