Three new "serious impairment" decisions
In the past two weeks, the Court of Appeals has addressed three new defenses of "no serious impairment" in auto accident cases. The Court sent two of the cases back to the lower court , apparently holding that the plaintiff suffered a "life-altering serious impairment." In Yarger v. Garchow, et al., the Court upheld the dismissal of the accident victim's claim because the victim's second injury in a two year period did not sufficiently exacerbate the cervical fusion he had endured after a car accident a year earlier.The Court noted that Yarger's injury was objectively manifested but denied that it had "life-altering" consequences under the Kreiner standard. The three judges held that Yarger's life after the second collision did not change substantially from the limitations, restrictions and activity level of the prior year (after the first collision).
In Place v. Groenewoud,the appeals judges denied a motion by the Defendant to reverse the trial court's failure to grant summary disposition. The judges noted that the injury victim suffered a fracture of his dominant wrist, disabling him from work for 11 months. Ultimately, the plaintiff recovered only 63 percent of his pre-injury range of motion and was left with diminshed grip strength and a susceptibility to future injury. For almost nine months, he required assistance with the normal activities of daily living and his surgeon had also permanently restricted some activities. As a result, the Court disagreed with the Defendant's argument that his injury was de minimus in impact, and concluded that the victim's injury was a serious impairment "as a matter of law."
Similarly, in LaFler v. Esuraance Insurance Services, Inc., the appellate panel concluded that the accident victim's injury constituted a serious impairment of her life as a matter of law. In LaFler, the plaintiff suffered a labral tear of her right shoulder that kept her out of work for 14 months. She also required assistance with the activities of daily living and experienced severe pain, difficulty in sleeping, and "could not even share a bed with her husband" and thus her injury "was a serious impairment that affected the course of plaintiff's normal life."