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No PIP benefits for man killed when machine falls from tractor trailer

Gwendolyn Neill sued MEEMIC and Progressive Michigan Insurance Company after her husband was crushed under a machine that fell from a tractor trailer.  Neill's husband was unloading the machine from a parked trailer in the course of his employment, and the Court denied the widow benefits after finding that the tractor trailer was not "parked in such a way as to cause unreasonable risk of the bodily injury which occurred." 

The majority of the Court of Appeals initially concluded that the tractor trailer was being used "as a temporary storage platform" rather than in its transportation function.  We guess that once you park your car and start unloading the groceries, you are no longer using the car to transport them:  loading and unloading are treated as superfluous rather than being integral to transportation.  This seems like another hyper-technical distinction utilized to rationalize policy choices that do not square with common sense--a specialty of the Engler Majority. 

Since the decedent was in the course of his employment and unloading a parked vehicle, his widow was required to put forward evidence establishing a question of fact regarding "unreasonable risk" in order to collect PIP benefits (i.e., medical benefits and limited wages, funeral benefits and replacement domestic services), and the majority of the court concluded that she failed in that endeavor.  The dissenting Judge, William Murphy, believed that the Estate had raised such a question of fact through the affidavit of a qualified expert witness.

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
309 East Front Street
Traverse City, Michigan 49684
Toll Free: 1-800-678-1307
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