Michigan’s Supreme Court reins in attenuated causal connections in “first party” no-fault claims


Michigan law provides that, unless a special motor cycle policy is in place, no-fault benefits for motorcycle accidents are available only if a motor vehicle (think cars and trucks, not motorcycles) is “involved in” the accident and special priorities rules apply. The Michigan Supreme Court’s April 11, 2013 opinion in McPherson v Progressive Mich Ins Coprovides important clarification to this rule: the motor vehicle’s involvement must be more than incidental.

Ian McPherson was injured in 2007 while a passenger in a car driven by Christopher McPherson. He developed a neurological disorder. In 2008, while driving a motorcycle, he suffered a seizure consistent with his neurological disorder. A doctor linked it to the earlier accident. With no direct motor vehicle involvement in his motorcycle accident, Ian claimed that the spinal cord injury he suffered in the motorcycle crash actually arose out of the earlier accident in a motor vehicle.

The lower courts accepted Ian’s argument but the Supreme Court reversed in McPherson. It held that the causal connection between Ian’s 2008 spinal cord injury and the 2007 accident was “insufficient to satisfy the ‘arising out of’ requirement” under Michigan’s Insurance Code. Courts shouldn’t look to questions about the “causal genesis” of an injury, but to “whether the causal connection between the injury and the use of a motor vehicle is more than incidental, fortuitous, or ‘but for.’” Mere “limited causal connection” to use of the motor vehicle in 2007 wasn’t enough to create liability for payment of no-fault benefits in McPherson.

Have questions or looking for further information? Contact one of our attorneys.