Serious Impairment of Body Function
Case: Lee v. Cooley
Court: Michigan Court of Appeals ( Unpublished Opinion )
Judges: Per Curiam – Swartzle, Sawyer, and Markey
Plaintiff argued that the trial court erred in granting Defendant’s Motion for Summary Disposition because she met the threshold requirements of MCL 500.3135(1) to maintain an action for noneconomic tort damages. She asserted that she had shown an objectively manifested impairment that affected her general ability to lead her normal life, including her ability to walk with her daughter for exercise, to engage in everyday household chores, and to regularly travel between her children’s homes in Michigan and her brothers’ homes in Ohio.
Plaintiff argues that the trial court erroneously relied upon the physical therapist’s treatment note stating that plaintiff’s injuries had resolved, when Dr. Ruoff’s affidavit and continued treatment of plaintiff’s complaints contradicted that physical therapist’s note. Plaintiff also argues that the trial court inappropriately applied a temporal requirement to its analysis of whether plaintiff suffered a serious impairment of body function.
The trial court relied on the treatment notes from plaintiff’s physical therapy as evidence that by two and a half months after the accident the effects of the accident on plaintiff’s neck and back injuries had resolved. However, “the statute does not create an express temporal requirement as to how long an impairment must last in order to have an effect on the person’s general ability to live his or her normal life.” McCormick v Carrier, 487 Mich 180, 215; 795 NW2d 517 (2010).
To the extent that the trial court based its grant of summary disposition to defendant upon the length of time that plaintiff’s accident-related injuries impacted plaintiff’s general ability to lead her normal life, the trial court erred in failing to find a genuine issue of material fact as to whether plaintiff’s neck and back injuries qualified as a serious impairment of body function.
Plaintiff testified that she experienced significantly worse pain after the accident and her son testified that she was able to perform daily household chores before the accident, but that she was unable to perform those same chores after the accident. Plaintiff’s testimony also established that traveling between Traverse City and Ohio was a large part of her life before the accident, and she was unable to continue traveling between those two locations after the accident. Because a genuine issue of material fact existed as to whether the neck and back injuries suffered by plaintiff in the accident affected her ability to lead her normal life in her normal manner of living, the trial court erred in granting defendant’s motion for summary disposition.