Court rejects insurer's argument that people sitting in disabled car in driveway are not "occupants."
Cierra Kurt, Davonna Fluker, and Reginald Smith were sitting in a disabled Ford Taurus in Kurt's driveway, talking and smoking cigarettes. They suffered injuries when a car insured with Home-Owners Insurance Company left the road and struck the car. They sought PIP benefits, and State Farm was assigned to pay; it disputed the obligation and argued that Home-Owners should be paying for benefits to the injured people as though they were pedestrians. State Farm argued that since the disabled car was not being used for its "transportation function" at the time of the injury, the injured people weren't "occupants" of a motor vehicle at the time of the collision. It argued that a recent decision of the Michigan Supreme Court limiting benefits to persons using a motor vehicle "as a motor vehicle" was binding authority.
The Court of Appeals agreed with the lower court and rejected State Farm's argument. Although the judges recognized the recent decision by the highest court, it pointed out that the section of the No Fault statute requiring interpretation in this case contained no language about using a motor vehicle "as a motor vehicle." Thus it refused to apply the high court's anti-victim limitation in this situation where it would have transferred the burden of paying PIP benefits from one insurer to another.