Judge Kirsten Kelly deviates from past law to deny PIP benefits
In the recent case of Farmers Insurance Exchange v. Rufus Young, Judge Kelly demonstrated her willingness to kowtow to the insurance industry, regardless of past law or legal principles. The depth of her disinterest in the rights of ordinary people, and her lack of scholarship, is thoroughly elucidated in the dissenting opinion of very moderate judge Peter O'Connell. In the Young case, Kelly and Judge Brian Zahra denied PIP benefits to the Henry Ford Health System and Mr. Young because they felt that Young had abused his permissive use of an automobile. O'Connell pointed out that since 1974, PIP benefits have been payable arising out of the use of any vehicle that has not been taken ILLEGALLY. A jury expressly found that Young did not take this vehicle illegally--he was given permissive use.
Reading Judge O'Connell's opinion and footnotes can only dismay any Michigan citizen over the poor quality and partisan nature of Michigan's judiciary since the Engler era. For starters, Kelly and Zahra apply the principle of "collateral estoppel" to dictate the result of one of two related cases, even though the dictated outcome was achieved prior to the case relied on (See O'Connell's footnote 3: "[T]he question whether Young had unlawfully taken the vehicle was decided for the first time in Docket No. 283865, the action that the majority concludes is barred by collateral estoppel." Apparently Kelly decided which outcome she liked better, and then mis-used a legal principle to overturn a jury verdict. As O'Connell noted, if Kelly's strident decision were actually the law, every person who commits a driving error resulting in a collision (i.e. "operates a vehicle unlawfully") would be denied the PIP benefits (wages, medical and domestic services) which they have purchased in advance with insurance premiums. Judges Kelly and Zahra should be ashamed of their opinion in this matter: I wonder if they were the recipients of PAC dollars from Farmers Insurance?