Serious Impairment of Body Function

Written by Joseph Collison on . Posted in Legal Updates

Case: Orwig v. Farm Bureau Gen. Ins. Co. of MI

Court: Michigan Court of Appeals ( Unpublished Opinion )

Judges: Per Curiam Murray, Fort Hood, and Gleicher

A serious impairment of body function is defined as “an objectively manifested impairment of an important body function that affects the person’s general ability to lead his or her normal life.”  MCL 500.3135(5).4  In McCormick v Carrier, 487 Mich 180, 195; 795 NW2d 517 (2010), the Michigan Supreme Court held that “three prongs . . . are necessary to establish a ‘serious impairment of body function’: (1) an objectively manifested impairment (2) of an important body function that (3) affects the person’s general ability to lead his or her normal life.”  “[A]n ‘objectively manifested’ impairment is commonly understood as one observable or perceivable from actual symptoms or conditions.” Id  “[W]hen considering an ‘impairment,’ the focus ‘is not on the injuries themselves, but how the injuries affected a particular body function.’ ”  Id. at 197 (citation omitted).  With regard to the second prong, a body function will be considered “important” depending on its “value,” “significance,” or “consequence” to the injured person.  Id. at 19.  The third prong requires that the impairment of an important body function “affect[ ] the person’s general ability to lead his or her normal life.”  Id. at 200.  This is a subjective inquiry and “requires a comparison of the plaintiff’s life before and after the accident.”  Id. at 202.

In this case, plaintiff has presented evidence to satisfy the first prong of the McCormick analysis.  Specifically, the record evidence reflects that following the accident, plaintiff suffered several “objectively manifested impairment[s] of body function[s]” MCL 500.3135(5), including a posterior left hip dislocation, a left acetabular (hip socket) fracture, left knee injury, a right ankle sprain, a laceration of his head, a closed head injury, a left rib strain, and a variety of contusions and abrasions.

Plaintiff testified that he has experienced impaired body functions that are important to him. Specifically, following the accident, plaintiff’s ability to engage in athletic races and competitions, a key part of his life, was greatly impacted, and he was no longer able to participate in recreational activities of bowling and riding his motorcycle.  Accordingly, plaintiff presented evidence to meet the second prong of MCL 500.3135(5).

The record evidence also supports plaintiff’s contention that his ability to lead his normal life was affected by the objectively manifested impairment of an important body function.  MCL 500.3135(5).  Before the accident, plaintiff and his wife would participate in a bi-monthly bowling league, but he has had to refrain from this activity because he is unsure of whether his hip will withstand the activity.  Plaintiff gave this same testimony with regard to riding his motorcycle, because he is concerned that his hip will not “hold up” while riding his 700 pound motorcycle.  Additionally, before the accident, plaintiff would participate in 10 athletic races in a year, but after the accident he has only participated in “maybe a couple a year.”  Also, plaintiff now uses ice packs regularly and takes over-the-counter pain relievers after his physical activity.

Therefore, the record evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to plaintiff, establishes that plaintiff’s individual “capacity to live his pre-incident manner of living was affected, and the third prong of [MCL 500.3135(5)] is satisfied.”