Wills v. State Farm Ins. Co., Docket No. 188559

CourtCourt of Appeal of Michigan (US)
Writing for the CourtPER CURIAM; T.G. KAVANAGH
PartiesRobert WILLS and Cathy Wills, Plaintiffs-Appellees, v. STATE FARM INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant-Appellant.
Docket NumberDocket No. 188559
Decision Date04 March 1997

Page 488

564 N.W.2d 488
222 Mich.App. 110
Robert WILLS and Cathy Wills, Plaintiffs-Appellees,
v.
STATE FARM INSURANCE COMPANY, Defendant-Appellant.
Docket No. 188559.
Court of Appeals of Michigan.
Submitted Sept. 16, 1996, at Grand Rapids.
Decided March 4, 1997, at 9:00 a.m.
Released for Publication May 15, 1997.

Page 489

[222 Mich.App. 111] Richard L. Migala, Kalamazoo, for plaintiffs-appellees.

James, Dark & Brill by John C. Fish, Kalamazoo, for defendant-appellant.

Before GRIBBS, P.J., and MARKEY and T.G. KAVANAGH *, JJ.

PER CURIAM.

Plaintiffs Robert and Cathy Wills filed a declaratory judgment action against defendant State Farm Insurance Company to determine whether defendant has a duty to pay benefits on behalf of Robert Wills (hereafter plaintiff) under the uninsured motorist provisions found in plaintiff's policy with defendant. Pursuant to the parties' stipulated statement of facts, the trial court granted summary disposition in plaintiffs' favor upon finding coverage where gunshots fired from an unidentified automobile passing plaintiff's vehicle caused plaintiff to drive off the road and suffer injuries. Defendant appeals as of right. We reverse and remand.

In 1994, defendant issued a policy of insurance to plaintiff to cover his 1989 Mercury Sable. As part of this policy, defendant promised to pay plaintiff certain damages if he were injured as the result of an automobile accident between his vehicle and a vehicle driven by an uninsured motorist. The policy stated as follows:

[222 Mich.App. 112] We will pay damages for bodily injury an insured is legally entitled to collect from the owner or driver of an uninsured motor vehicle. The bodily injury must be caused by [an] accident arising out of the operation, maintenance or use of an uninsured motor vehicle.

Uninsured Motor Vehicle--means:

* * * * * *

2. a "hit-and-run" land motor vehicle whose owner or driver remains unknown and which strikes

a. the insured or

b. the vehicle the insured is occupying and causes bodily injury to the insured. [Emphasis in original.]

While plaintiff was driving his Sable on Shaw Lake Road in Barry County, another vehicle pulled alongside his car as if it were passing him in the left lane. Suddenly, plaintiff saw a flash and heard gunshots. Reacting to the shots, plaintiff ducked down to the right toward the floor of the passenger area to avoid injury. Upon doing so, plaintiff turned the Sable's steering wheel to the right. The vehicle swerved off the road and hit two trees. As a result of the accident, plaintiff injured his neck and back, requiring surgery. The parties agree that there was no actual physical contact between the unidentified

Page 490

automobile from which the shots were fired and plaintiff's automobile. The unidentified vehicle and its occupants left the scene of the accident, and the identities of the occupants remain unknown.

Plaintiff subsequently filed a claim with defendant for medical and uninsured motorist benefits. Defendant paid plaintiff his medical benefits but denied plaintiff's claim for uninsured motorist benefits because there was no physical contact between plaintiff's[222 Mich.App. 113] Sable and the unidentified vehicle. Plaintiffs responded by filing a declaratory judgment action asking the trial court to enter judgment in their favor with regard to the coverage dispute and to order damages for defendant's bad-faith refusal to pay benefits or submit the matter to arbitration, as plaintiffs had requested.

Defendant moved for summary disposition under MCR 2.116(C)(8) and (C)(10) on the basis that the clear language of the uninsured motorist provision excluded coverage for the situation in question. The parties stipulated the facts and agreed that "[t]he issue to be decided by the Court is whether or not Plaintiff Robert Wills' bodily injury was caused by an accident arising out of the operation, maintenance or use of a[n] uninsured motor vehicle within the meaning of Defendant State Farm's policy."

At the hearing on defendant's motion, the trial court distinguished this Court's decision in Kreager v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Ins. Co., 197 Mich.App. 577, 496 N.W.2d 346 (1992), from the instant case and relied upon Hill v. Citizens Ins. Co. of America, 157 Mich.App. 383, 403 N.W.2d 147 (1987), to find that a sufficient physical nexus existed between the two involved automobiles because, while they were moving, a projectile came from one car and entered the other. The trial court reasoned that this constituted a direct causal connection that was sufficient to permit recovery of uninsured motorist benefits under Hill. Also, given the bullet holes in plaintiff's vehicle, the court surmised that if it were up to it to decide the issue at a bench trial, it would find that the assault was against plaintiff's vehicle, not against plaintiff. According to the trial court, "as I understand the [222 Mich.App. 114] court rule under directed--under declaratory judgments, the Court can accelerate the trial. So if somebody in a different court thinks that summary disposition was not proper, those would be--that would be my finding in a nonjury situation. And since we have stipulated facts, [that] would be my finding in a nonjury situation." Therefore, the court found in favor of plaintiffs under MCR 2.116(C)(8) and (C)(10) 1 and denied defendant's motion.

As its first issue on appeal, defendant asserts that the trial court erred in granting plaintiffs summary disposition because, on the basis of the stipulation of facts, no genuine issue of fact existed that plaintiff's vehicle was ever struck by the unidentified vehicle, and defendant therefore was entitled to entry of judgment. We review de novo the trial court's rulings with regard to summary disposition motions, declaratory judgments, and questions of law. See Cardinal Mooney High School v. Michigan High School Athletic Ass'n, 437 Mich. 75, 80, 467 N.W.2d 21 (1991); State Treasurer v. Schuster, 215 Mich.App. 347, 350, 547 N.W.2d 332 (1996); Michigan Residential Care Ass'n v. Dep't of Social Services, 207 Mich.App. 373, 375, 526 N.W.2d 9 (1994). Upon review de novo, we agree.

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4 practice notes
  • Morrison v. City of East Lansing, Docket No. 234361.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Michigan (US)
    • May 6, 2003
    ...staff would have performed privately. We review de novo summary-disposition decisions under MCR 2.116(A), Wills v. State Farm Ins. Co., 222 Mich. App. 110, 114, 564 N.W.2d 488 (1997), and questions of statutory construction, Herald Co. v. Bay City, 463 Mich. 111, 117, 614 N.W.2d 873 The OMA......
  • Unisys Corp. v. INS. COMMISSIONER, Docket No. 211418.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Michigan (US)
    • October 22, 1999
    ...in a declaratory judgment action. Stajos v. Lansing, 221 Mich.App. 223, 226, 561 N.W.2d 116 (1997); Wills v. State Farm Ins. Co., 222 Mich.App. 110, 114, 564 N.W.2d 488 (1997). When reviewing an order of summary disposition under MCR 2.116(C)(10), we must consider the available pleadings, a......
  • GREGORY J. SCHWARTZ & CO., INC. v. Fagan, Docket No. 229389
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Michigan (US)
    • April 18, 2003
    ...apply Rule 10304 to NASD arbitration claims is a question of law, and we review questions of law de novo. Wills v. State Farm Ins. Co., 222 Mich.App. 110, 114, 564 N.W.2d 488 (1997). Similarly, we review de novo a trial court's ruling with respect to a summary disposition motion. The United......
  • McJimpson v. Auto Club Grp. Ins. Co., Docket No. 320671.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Michigan (US)
    • May 12, 2016
    ...(emphasis added).]Our focus on the presence of a "substantial physical nexus" continued in Wills v. 889 N.W.2d 728State Farm Ins. Co., 222 Mich.App. 110, 115, 564 N.W.2d 488 (1997). In Wills, we stated that "indirect physical contact" involves situations when an object is "cast off" by a ve......
4 cases
  • Morrison v. City of East Lansing, Docket No. 234361.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Michigan (US)
    • May 6, 2003
    ...staff would have performed privately. We review de novo summary-disposition decisions under MCR 2.116(A), Wills v. State Farm Ins. Co., 222 Mich. App. 110, 114, 564 N.W.2d 488 (1997), and questions of statutory construction, Herald Co. v. Bay City, 463 Mich. 111, 117, 614 N.W.2d 873 The OMA......
  • Unisys Corp. v. INS. COMMISSIONER, Docket No. 211418.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Michigan (US)
    • October 22, 1999
    ...in a declaratory judgment action. Stajos v. Lansing, 221 Mich.App. 223, 226, 561 N.W.2d 116 (1997); Wills v. State Farm Ins. Co., 222 Mich.App. 110, 114, 564 N.W.2d 488 (1997). When reviewing an order of summary disposition under MCR 2.116(C)(10), we must consider the available pleadings, a......
  • GREGORY J. SCHWARTZ & CO., INC. v. Fagan, Docket No. 229389
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Michigan (US)
    • April 18, 2003
    ...apply Rule 10304 to NASD arbitration claims is a question of law, and we review questions of law de novo. Wills v. State Farm Ins. Co., 222 Mich.App. 110, 114, 564 N.W.2d 488 (1997). Similarly, we review de novo a trial court's ruling with respect to a summary disposition motion. The United......
  • McJimpson v. Auto Club Grp. Ins. Co., Docket No. 320671.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Michigan (US)
    • May 12, 2016
    ...(emphasis added).]Our focus on the presence of a "substantial physical nexus" continued in Wills v. 889 N.W.2d 728State Farm Ins. Co., 222 Mich.App. 110, 115, 564 N.W.2d 488 (1997). In Wills, we stated that "indirect physical contact" involves situations when an object is "cast off" by a ve......

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