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Van parked where it blocked "only" one-half of one lane of residential street is "not an unreasonable hazard."

Daniel Marcoux was drinking and snowmobiling with a friend when the headlight on his snowmobile fell out of the housing.  The two men could not find the light, so they returned home without benefit of a headlight. Marcoux dropped his friend off and was travelling to his own home when he struck the rear of a van that had been parked in the travel portion of a residential street. He suffered significant injuries including a "shattered" femur, facial fractures and a fractured clavicle.  He sought PIP benefits (medical and three years of wages and household services) from the owner of the van.

Under Michigan law, the insurer of a motor vehicle is not responsible for injuries suffered in an incident involving a parked vehicle unless the vehicle is "parked in such a way as to cause unreasonable risk of the bodily injury."  The Court of Appeals panel, including Republican stalwarts Christopher Murray and William Whitbeck, concluded that since the van occupied "only" one-half of the traveled lane, it did not pose an unreasonable risk of harm. They upheld the admission of police testimony that the officers could see the van for 300 feet and were of the opinion (without benefit of reconstruction) that the snowmobile was traveling in excess of the 25 mile per hour speed limit on impact.

If the driver of the van had been injured---or simply investigated by police---there is no question that these same judges would have ruled that his van was not reasonably parked and presented an unreasonable risk.  They were obviously troubled by the "no fault" nature of PIP benefits, and the fact that the benefits are payable without reduction for comparative fault. Marcoux's blood alcohol was .12, rendering him substantially at fault in causing the collision.  As a famous law professor once remarked, "bad facts make bad law."  These judges stretched too far to protect Auto Owners' subsididary, Home Owners Insurance Company, from liability for Marcoux's medical expenses.  Under the law as written, parking your van so that it occupies half a lane of travel makes your insurer responsible for the resulting injuries--even if the "victim" is also substantially at fault.

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
309 East Front Street
Traverse City, Michigan 49684
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