Judges reverse lower court; send No Fault PIP case back to the trial judge after AAA appeals
Jared Van Tiem's Guardian sued AAA for No Fault PIP benefits after Jared suffered a severe closed head injury. Van Tiem was involved in a drunken, heated argument with his girlfriend when he opened the car door and "fell out." The girlfriend had stopped the car and invited Van Tiem to get out, however, he did not open the door until after she had started to move, again. She didn't know how fast she was going, but it was "not...very fast." AAA defended Tiem's claim for medical expenses by arguing that Van Tiem had intentionally inflicted his injuries upon himself and cited, its driver's claim that he had cut himself in the past when angry.
The trial judge found no credible evidence of Van Tiem intentionally injuring himself, particularly given his .19 blood alcohol and the confusion of the stopping and starting of the vehicle. On that basis, the trial judge granted summary disposition to the family of the injured man. Unfortunately for them, they drew a panel of perhaps the three most insurance-friendly judges they could have drawn. Judges Christopher Murray, Henry Saad and Joel Hoekstra reversed the decision and sent the case back to the lower court. The judges held that there was a question of fact to be determined by the jury, with regard to Van Tiem's intent to injure himself. Judges Murray and Saad, in particular, are not usually so reluctant to affirm a summary disposition, when it is sought by an insurance company.