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Snowmobile Rider Injured In Michigan Car Accident Not Entitled To No-Fault Benefits

Posted on Aug 16, 2012

In Marcoux v. Home Owners, unpublished per curiam opinion of the Court of Appeals decided November 8, 2011 (Docket No. 299559), the Court of Appeals held that a snowmobile rider was not entitled to no-fault benefits under the un-reasonably parked vehicle exception in Section 3106 of the No-Fault Act.

In the early morning hours of February 2, 2009, the Plaintiff Marcoux gave a friend a ride home on a borrowed snowmobile. While travelling across a frozen lake, Marcoux hit a bump, and the snowmobile’s headlight assembly fell out of its housing. Marcoux and his friend looked for the headlight but could not locate it because it was very dark outside. Marcoux and his friend then continued on without it.

Marcoux dropped his friend off at home and then continued on to his own home. While travelling southbound on a residential street, Marcoux collided with the rear of a white van partially parked in the south-bound lane of the two-lane street. As a result of the accident,

Marcoux suffered numerous facial fractures, a shattered right femur, and a fractured clavicle.

Home Owners insured the owner of the van. The owner of the van moved the van onto the street after getting stuck in his driveway. After having mechanical difficulties, he left the van parked along the street for fear of it becoming stuck in the driveway again.

The van blocked approximately one-half of the southbound lane. Marcoux filed suit seeking recovery of personal injury protection (PIP) insurance benefits under the No-Fault Act. Marcoux alleged that the owner of the van parked it in a manner that posed an unreasonable risk of bodily harm under MCL 500.3106.

Home Owners moved to dismiss, arguing that the van was not unreasonably parked on the road.

The trial court agreed, stating: “So I think it appears that had he [Marcoux] been acting as a reasonably prudent person, he would have had ample opportunity to observe, react to, and avoid the hazard posed by the van. So, therefore, the Court finds that the van did not pose an unreasonable risk within the meaning of MCL 500.3106(1)(a).” Marcoux argued that the trial court erred in granting Home Owners summary disposition because the owner of the van parked it in such a way as to pose an unreasonable risk of bodily harm.

Marcoux also argued that the trial court erred by considering his fault with regard to the collision when granting Home Owners summary disposition. The Court noted that the Michigan Supreme Court has held that the language of MCL 600.3106(1)(a) “does not create a rule that whenever a motor vehicle is parked entirely or in part on a traveled portion of a road, the parked vehicle poses an unreasonable risk.”

Rather, “factors such as the manner, location, and fashion in which a vehicle is parked are material to determining whether the parked vehicle poses an unreasonable risk.” In this case, the parked van was more than 300 feet from the nearest cross street and impeded only one-half of one lane on a lightly travelled residential road with a speed limit of 25 miles per hour.

The accident occurred in the early hours of the morning and approaching drivers had ample opportunity to observe the van. This supports a conclusion that drivers could react to and avoid the hazard it posed either by moving partially into the on-coming lane, if it was clear to do so, or by stopping behind the van until oncoming traffic cleared. Thus, the Court held that the trial court did not err in concluding that the van in this case did not propose an unreasonable risk of the bodily injury. Therefore, the snowmobile driver injured in Michigan accident was not entitled to receive no-fault benefits.

Lawrence J. Buckfire
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