Woman who fell from car denied PIP benefits
By statute, occupants of a motor vehicle who suffer injury "arising out of the use" of the vehicle, as a motor vehicle, can collect no fault PIP benefits (i.e., medical expenses and three years of wage loss and limited domestic services). Mary Jo McNamara arrived at her condominium after a day of shopping with friends, when she dropped a glass water bottle from her location in the backseat. Attempting to prevent the bottle from breaking on impact, she fell from the car, struck her head and suffered startlingly serious injuries. She died soon after and her family sued MEEMIC, her no fault insurer, for PIP benefits.
The trial court granted McNamara's family's motion for summary disposition and the insurer appealed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that since McNamara was not "in contact with" the vehicle, or any equipment mounted on the vehicle, and also not "unloading" the vehicle, at the time she suffered injury, she was not entitled to PIP benefits. The Court held that she was no longer an "occupant" of the vehicle when she suffered injury and that she was attempting to regain contact with the vehicle when she was hurt--which was precisely why she was hurt.