Court upholds Mecosta County decision rejecting woman's claim of "serious impairment."
Carmella Rose Miller was hurt when Brandon Cooper crossed the centerline and struck her car head-on. She had to endure surgery on her left shoulder and right knee, and sued Cooper and the owner of the car, Nick Bongard, for compensation. She also sought Underinsured Motorist Coverage from her own carrier, Michigan Millers Mutual Insurance. The three defendants pointed to the Kreiner decision and argued that under the "Engler Majority's" interpretation of the serious impairment threshold, Miller had not suffered "life-altering" consequences and therefore had not suffered a "serious impairment."
The Court of Appeals noted that Miller needed eight weeks to recuperate from her knee surgery; was forced to wear a brace for three weeks around-the-clock; and needed assistance with the activities of daily living. For a week, she was on a liquid diet as a result of injuries to her mouth. During the recuperation period from knee surgery, she could not perform household chores, walk her dogs, shovel snow or drive to appointments or for groceries. In the succeeding weeks, she was able to engage in normal domestic activities on a limited basis. Six months after the knee surgery, she underwent shoulder surgery and endured ten weeks' recovery time from this injury. She required intensive pain therapy during this period and was only able to sleep in a recliner. She has since given up her primary recreation, kayaking, because it causes her shoulder problems; and she no longer volunteers for hospice care.
In response to the Defendants' motions to dismiss Miller's claim, the trial court emphasized the "relatively aggressive Kreiner case" and concluded that it was bound to dismiss. The Court of Appeals similarly questioned the wisdom and fairness of Kreiner, but affirmed, noting that it did not have the authority to ignore a judgment of the high court. It pointed out that a case inviting re-evaluation of the Kreiner standard was recently argued before the Supreme Court, suggesting that a less onerous interpretation of the statutory threshold may be forthcoming soon.