On Sunday, the Michigan Supreme Court issued a major decision that benefits all Michigan motorists and taxpayers. In a hotly contested 4-3 decision, the Court issued McCormick v. Larry Carrier and Allied Automobile Group, which overturns the infamous 2004 Kreiner v. Fischer decision previously issued by the Court.
Car, truck and motorcycle accident victims can rejoice. For the past six years, thousands of innocent accident victims, many of them hurt by drunk drivers, have not been able to have their day in court because of the Kreiner decision. As a result of McCormick, accident victims will be able to obtain pain and suffering money damages for car accidents that were never their fault.
In McCormick, Mr. McCormick sustained a severe fracture to his ankle when his leg was run over by a truck. He required two operations to repair his shattered ankle. He was off work for 19 months and when he returned, was not able to resume his normal job duties. Medical testimony established that his injury had caused the onset of degenerative arthritis in his ankle joint, which is only bound to get worse over time. He testified at his deposition that his life was “painful, but normal and was eventually able to resume all of his pre-accident activities.
Using Kreiner as the standard, the trial court threw Mr. McCormick’s case out of court, ruling that because the entire course and trajectory of his life was not affected, he was not entitled to any compensation. Last year, the Michigan Supreme Court decided to review the Kreiner decision, and this week overturned its earlier ruling.
The Kreiner decision was a tragedy. Under Kreiner, an injured person had to demonstrate that his or her entire life was permanently affected by the car accident. If a person had surgery, worked hard during physical therapy to recover and returned to work within a couple of months, too bad. Your life was not permanently affected because you were able to return to your pre-accident life, and under the law, you were not entitled to any compensation.
No state in this country had such a draconian standard. If a person was injured in Ohio, Hawaii or any other state, that person would have been entitled to a recovery. But not in Michigan.
The Michigan Legislature never intended such a result when it crafted MCL 500.3135 and Michigan motor vehicle law in general. No where in any Michigan statute does it state a plaintiff must have permanent injuries, or a person’s entire course and trajectory of life must be affected to recover compensation when injured in an auto accident.
Kreiner was pure activist judge-made law. In deciding McCormick the way it did, the Michigan Supreme Court is returning to the original intent of our state’s lawmakers.
Sunday was a great day for justice in Michigan and for motorists throughout this state.