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Farmers Insurance and State Farm lose priority fight in case involving commercial van

Two women and several children were injured on their way to a Music Festival in northwest Michigan.  They had flown to Grand Rapids to attend the Festival, and paid for a shuttle bus ride to the location, however, their flight was delayed by weather, so they missed the shuttle bus employed by the Festival to transport airline passengers.  They would have been required to wait 24 hours, however, they spotted a van used by the Festival for other purposes and persuaded the volunteer driver to transport them.  The volunteer rolled the van en route causing injuries.

The injured victims all received PIP benefits through their household insurers, Farmers Insurance and State Farm, and the latter sued the Festival's no fault insurer, Michigan Insurance Company, for reimbursement.  The household insurers argued that Michigan Insurance Company should pay the PIP benefits because it was the insurer of a commercial vehicle transporting passengers for hire.  The trial court agreed with them, however, the Court of Appeals reversed.

The panel noted a handful of other decisions, including the case of a college student charging $25.00 for round-trips home over a break, that stand for the proposition that the commercial carrier is not intended to apply to an "incidental" transport for hire.  Given that the Music Festival usually used shuttle buses to transport airport passengers, and that the latter constituted on about 16% of their total attendees, the Court deemed this transportation of passengers "incidental" and left the PIP expenses with the victims' household insurers.

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
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Traverse City, Michigan 49684
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