The “51 %” Rule – Third Party Auto Claims


Although there are several issues in this case, such as whether the issue of comparative fault – generally an issue for the trier of fact –  can be summarily disposed of, we will focus on the issue of what is commonly known as “51% Rule”.

This rule can be found in MCL 500.3135(2)(b). This section states that, “damages shall be assessed on the basis of comparative fault, except that damages shall not be assessed in favor of a party who is more than 50% at fault.” In short, under the Michigan No-Fault statute, a person who is more than 50% at fault for an accident is no longer entitled to collect non-economic damages. Further, any economic loss otherwise recoverable will be reduced by that percentage of negligence attributable to the plaintiff.

In this case, the accident took place at 7:20pm, on a rainy, snowy night in February. Johnson was out for run, and was occupying the middle of the right lane. He was wearing all black clothes. Two cars were headed towards him, from behind. One of these was a man with the last name Turner and the other was the defendant, Hass. Both vehicles were traveling near the posted speed of 45mph. Turner was in front of the defendant, and was able to make out what he called a shadow running down the road ahead of him. When Turner approached the shadow, which turned out to be the Johnson, he veered off into the left lane about 50-100 yards before he would have made contact . Hass was traveling only a couple car lengths behind Turner, and was not able to see Johnson in time to make any sort of adjustment and ended up striking and killing him.

The court reasoned that the proximate cause of the accident was the fact that Johnson was wearing all black, in the rain, and in the dark. This made it nearly impossible for any driver to be able to see him in sufficient time to avoid the collision. Since the cause of the accident was nearly all, if not well over 50% the fault of Johnson, the his estate was barred from recovery due to the 51% rule.

Please contact Andrew C. Collison with any questions.