Court rules that truck driver is not "unloading" when he opens trailer door to unload
Bryan Gallagher sued Bristol West and Farm Bureau after a load of plants fell on him when he opened a semi trailer's rear door. The trailer had been loaded by Northland Farms' employees before Gallagher picked it up. He was preparing for it to be unloaded prior to the arrival of employees at the destination. When he opened the rear door, the defective load or its make-shift shelving struck him in the head and shoulders. His attorneys argued that he was entitled to PIP benefits because he was in the process of "unloading" a motor vehicle.
The Court of Appeals applied a recent, very restrictive ruling of the Michigan Supreme Court to uphold the summary dismissal of Gallagher's claim. The court ruled that holding the rear door of the trailer did not meet the statutory requirement of being in contact with "permanently-mounted equipment" and that since Gallagher wasn't actually "unloading" the trailer when he opened the door, he didn't meet either of the requirements of the statute that would allow him to collect PIP benefits.
We think both conclusions are misplaced interpretations of the statute which was to be "liberally construed" to pay medical to injured vehicle operators.