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Woman denied PIP benefits after falling while attempting to close trailer door

The trial judge granted a Genesee County woman's request for medical expenses through the No Fault Act, after she fell while helping her daughter move to Chicago.  She was on a step ladder, attempting to close a U-Haul trailer door when she lost her balance and fell.

Under the No Fault Act, an insured has purchased Personal Injury Protection benefits [medical, limited wages for three years, and a few bucks of domestic services] if she or a family member suffers an injury "arising out of the "use, ownership or maintenance of a motor vehicle."  The breadth of this statutory insurance obligation was substantially narrowed by the current insurance-oriented Michigan Supreme Court's Republican majority in Frazier v. Allstate, a 2011 case.  Frazier overturned the Court's interpretation as it was established in 1981, and limited PIP benefits to a person who is injured in a car accident, or while "occupying, entering into, alighting from...or as a direct result of physical contact with equipment permanently mounted on [a] vehicle."  Thus, the Frazier Republican majority ruled that someone in contact with the door of a car is not entitled to benefits, because the door is part of the vehicle--not "equipment permanently mounted on it."  And therefore, if you fall with your hand on a permanently mounted tool box on a pick-up, you get PIP benefits, but if your hand is on the door of the pick-up--or any other part of it--you get no benefits.  We don't have enough imagination to make this stuff up.

In this week's Kalo v. HomeOwners Insurance Co. case, the Court of Appeals applied the Frazier decision to reverse the Flint trial judge and deny benefits to Mrs. Kalo. It concluded that the insurer was entitled to summary disposition because Mrs. Kalo wasn't "entering or alighting" from the trailer;  that she was holding the latch and leather strap attached to the trailer door was irrelevant because these devices were part of the trailer and did not consititute "permanently mounted equipment."

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
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Traverse City, Michigan 49684
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