Archive for the ‘General’ Category

14 Feb
When is an Off-Road Vehicle Not a Motor Vehicle? The Michigan Court of Appeals Provides Guidance
Posted Under General

What is covered by the Michigan No-Fault Act? One requirement for insurer payment is that the injury has to arise out of the ownership, operation, maintenance or use of a motor vehicle as a motor vehicle. But what is a “motor vehicle” under the law? The answer is not as simple as you might think. A “motor vehicle” is not a motorcycle, moped, farm tractor, quadricycle, off-road vehicle (“ORV”) or golf cart. Injuries involving these vehicles are generally not covered by Michigan No-Fault.

However, the difference between an ORV and an SUV or truck can become difficult when these rigs are customized for off-roading. The Michigan Court of Appeals recently found that a heavily-customized “mud bog” was not a motor vehicle and did not give rise to the protections of the Michigan No-Fault Act. In Snyder v. Michigan Assigned Claims Plan, Marcus Snyder was hurt when he was hit by a “mud bog.” The mud bog was a stock vehicle that had been received many modifications. It was  not suited to drive on roads and was designed to drive for short periods of time through mud pits. It had tires that the owner claimed were not “road legal,” did not have an alternator and was powered not by a gas tank, but by a fuel cell that took racing fuel. However, the driver of the mud bog was intoxicated at the time of the crash and was convicted of operating a “motor vehicle” while intoxicated causing serious injury. Snyder sued for benefits under the Michigan No-Fault Act. The trial court found that the mud bog, despite its modifications, was a motor vehicle, entitling Snyder to No-Fault benefits. The Assigned Claims Facility (which provides No-Fault benefits for those hit by uninsured motorists) appealed the trial court’s decision.

The Michigan Court of Appeals found that the mud bog was modified so much that it was no longer designed for operation on a public highway. The court found that the mud bog was an ORV and not a motor vehicle under the law. Moreover, the court found that the driver’s criminal conviction for operating a “motor vehicle” while intoxicated had no bearing on whether the mud bog was a motor vehicle. Thus, the court found that Snyder could not receive Michigan No-Fault benefits.

This case illustrates some of the fact-specific subtleties that weigh on whether someone is eligible for No-Fault benefits. It also illustrates the importance of guidance by a law firm that focuses on representing people injured by motor vehicles, motorcycles or ORVs. The law firm of Numinen, DeForge & Mathieu, PC represents drivers injured by at-fault drivers under the Michigan No-Fault act as well as those injured by motorcycles, ORVs and snowmobiles. The firm represents clients throughout the Upper Peninsula, including Marquette, Houghton, Sault Ste. Marie, Escanaba, Menominee and Iron Mountain. To speak to an attorney, please contact Phil Toutant at phillip@numinenlaw.com or at (906) 226-2580.

30 Dec
Michigan Court of Appeals Reverses Jury’s Zero Award for Pain and Suffering Damages in Personal Injury Case
Posted Under General

The Michigan Court of Appeals has reversed the Marquette County Circuit Court’s decision not to order a new trial where a jury found no noneconomic damages for a young woman injured in a ski crash. For background, “noneconomic damages” are damages for pain, suffering, denial of social pleasure/enjoyment and impairment of a person’s body. In Pietila v Wisotzke, the injured person, a junior in high school at the time, was hurt when another skier crashed into her while downhill skiing at a resort near Marquette, Michigan. The injured young woman was hospitalized for almost two weeks, suffering multiple fractures to her facial bones and skull. She also broke her jaw, nose, knee and hand. After reconstructive surgeries and hospitalization, she lost her ability to smell, had decreased ability to taste food, a clicking jaw and limited mobility of her jaw. She filed a lawsuit against the other skier. The case went to a jury trial. The jury awarded the injured young woman some economic damages for her out-of-pocket medical expenses. However, it awarded her zero for her pain, suffering and other noneconomic damages. She asked for a new trial. The trial court denied her request for a new trial, largely basing its ruling on the fact that she made a significant recovery after the crash. She appealed. The Michigan Court of Appeals found that the jury’s decision to award no noneconomic damages was grossly inadequate and against the great weight of the evidence. The appeals court held that “[w]e find it inconceivable however, that plaintiff did not suffer excruciating pain from the time of injury until she was anesthetized, as well as during the recuperation process.” The court also found that the zero award was grossly inadequate as to impairments of her body and her convalescence period. The court reversed the trial court and sent the case back for a new trial on the amount of noneconomic damages.

The law firm of Numinen, DeForge & Mathieu, PC represents people injured by preventable errors, inactions, mistakes and accidents that are the fault of other people or companies. The firm handles personal injury cases involving recreational crashes, propane explosions, car accidents, police brutality and other personal injury claims. The firm represents clients throughout the Upper Peninsula, including Marquette, Houghton, Sault Ste. Marie, Escanaba, Menominee and Iron Mountain. To speak to an attorney, please contact Phil Toutant at phillip@numinenlaw.com or at (906) 226-2580.

30 Nov
Numinen Named to Super Lawyers; Toutant Named to Rising Stars
Posted Under General

Karl Numinen was chosen for selection to the 2016 Michigan Super Lawyers list, an honor reserved for no more than five percent of the attorneys in the State of Michigan. Numinen has been selected to Super Lawyers each year from 2011 to 2016. Phillip Toutant was chosen for selection to the 2016 Michigan Super Lawyers Rising Stars list, an honor reserved for no more than two-and-a-half percent of the attorneys in the State of Michigan who are under 40 or have been practicing for 10 years or fewer. Toutant has been selected to Rising Stars each year from 2012 to 2016. “Super Lawyers” recognizes attorneys who have distinguished themselves in the legal practice and have demonstrated excellence in the practice of law.  This year’s list of “Super Lawyers” and “Rising Stars” will be published in the Thomson Reuters’ Super Lawyers Magazine and in Hour Detroit magazine as well as the on-line editions.

Karl Numinen can be reached at karl@numinenlaw.com or (906) 226-2580 and Phillip Toutant can be reached at phillip@numinenlaw.com or (906) 226-2580.

02 Nov
Michigan Supreme Court Hears Oral Argument on the Parked Vehicle Exception in No-Fault Case
Posted Under General

In limited circumstances, a person injured by the ownership, operation, maintenance, or use of a parked car can receive Michigan No-Fault benefits. For example, a person can receive benefits under No-Fault if injured when a car is parked in a way that causes unreasonable risk of bodily injury, while in the car or getting in/out of the car, loading/unloading the car or where injured by the use of equipment permanently attached to a car or truck. No-Fault benefits are not available for parked car injuries if the injury is compensable under workman’s compensation or similar laws.

Though the No-Fault Act indicates that someone should receive benefits where “the injury was a direct result of … property being lifted onto or lowered from the vehicle in loading or unloading process,” in 1998, the Michigan Court of Appeals, in McKenzie v Auto Club Ins Ass’n, made the question more difficult when it held that the injury must also be “closely related to the transportational function of automobiles.” A recent case has brought the issue before the Michigan Supreme Court. In Kemp v Farm Bureau General Ins. Co. of Michigan, the Michigan Court of Appeals approved a trial court’s denial of No-Fault benefits to a person who tore his calf muscle when removing a briefcase, an overnight bag and a thermos from the floor of the back seat of his truck. However, one of the three appeals court judges disagreed, arguing that if the legislature found that there should be benefits for injuries that are a direct result of property being lifted onto or lowered from the vehicle in the unloading process, the injured person should receive No-Fault benefits. Mr. Kemp has now filed a leave application to the Michigan Supreme Court, which heard oral argument on the case on October 6, 2016. We now await the Michigan Supreme Court’s decision on whether No-Fault benefits are available in this circumstance.

While this case seems to fit within the “parked vehicle exception” to the No-Fault Act, it illustrates the significance highly-nuanced facts can have on whether or not someone qualifies for No-Fault benefits. For example, the Michigan Court of Appeals has previously held that where a person was injured by reaching for a briefcase while sitting in his parked car, he was not entitled to No-Fault benefits. Shellenberger v Insurance Co of North America (1990). No matter the Michigan Supreme Court’s ultimate decision in the Kemp case, it shows the importance of obtaining guidance from legal counsel when considering your options if you have a potential Michigan No-Fault claim. The law firm of Numinen, DeForge & Mathieu, PC represents people injured by at-fault drivers under the Michigan No-Fault Act. The firm represents clients throughout the Upper Peninsula, including Marquette, Houghton, Sault Ste. Marie, Escanaba, Menominee and Iron Mountain. To speak to an attorney, please contact Phil Toutant at phillip@numinenlaw.com or at (906) 226-2580.

30 Oct
Michigan Court of Appeals Rules No Liability for Second Accident Caused by Aftermath of First Accident
Posted Under General

On August 9, 2016, the Michigan Court of Appeals held that a driver at fault for an accident is not at fault for injuries to a driver that subsequently crashes into disabled accident vehicles on the road. In Tanikowski v. Jacisin, Plaintiff Leonard Tanikowski was driving on a three lane highway, approaching the scene of an accident. He was tired and wanted to get to a hotel to sleep. He was traveling in a lane where there was a two-car rollover accident ahead. Instead of merging into the slowed/stopped traffic on either side of the accident, Mr. Tanikowski chose to veer in between the two disabled vehicles. He missed the first disabled vehicle, driven by Christopher Switzer, who was at fault for the first accident. However, he collided with the second vehicle, suffering injuries. He sued Switzer and the trial court dismissed his case. He appealed.

The Michigan Court of Appeals held that the driver could not sue because Switzer, the driver responsible for the first accident, because the driver at fault for the first accident could not have been anticipated or foreseen. The court of appeals held that despite Switzer’s negligence for causing the first accident, Mr. Tanikowski caused an entirely separate and distinct accident, and thus he could not sue.

The law firm of Numinen, DeForge & Mathieu, PC represents drivers injured by at-fault drivers under the Michigan No-Fault act. The firm represents clients throughout the Upper Peninsula, including Marquette, Houghton, Sault Ste. Marie, Escanaba, Menominee and Iron Mountain. To speak to an attorney, please contact Phil Toutant at phillip@numinenlaw.com or at (906) 226-2580.

05 Mar
Acquittal!
Posted Under General

“Not Guilty” … the two sweetest words a person accused of a crime could hope to hear.\r\n\r\nRussell Front Page\r\n\r\nAfter 8 days of trial, and only 4 hours of deliberation, an Iron County jury rendered their verdict of “Not Guilty” for our client acquitting her of all charges.  Our client, a mother of four who was babysitting two of her friend’s children, was charged with murder and first degree child abuse, punishable by life in prison, after a child in her care suffered accidental injuries causing the child’s death.  We were able to overcome the prosecutor’s three expert witnesses by showing how biased their investigations were conducted. This was a tragic incident that “child abuse advocates” turned into criminal charges.

13 Jan
Numinen Elected to Marijuana Law Council
Posted Under General

LANSING, MI — Karl Numinen was selected by his peers to serve a two-year term as a member of the Council of the State Bar of Michigan Marijuana Law Section.  The nine-member Council, the first of its kind in the country, was formed in January, 2016 by the State Bar of Michigan to serve as the governing body of attorneys who have an interest and expertise in Marijuana law.

\r\n

MI mj mapKPN headshot

\r\n

As Marijuana law emerges as one of the fastest growing areas of law in the country, Karl’s involvement in leadership positions at the state level and his determination to stay on top of the latest developments in the law demonstrate his commitment to provide his clients the best possible legal advice and representation.  His election to the Marijuana Law Section Council is another example of Karl’s active involvement in the key professional associations that deal with the issues most important to his clients.  The members of the Marijuana Law Section Council will address the many complex and novel legal issues involving the marijuana law facing attorneys and citizens in Michigan.  Michigan voters passed a state referendum approving the medical use of marijuana several years ago.  The Michigan Legislature continues to draft new laws regulating the manufacture, use, and distribution of medical marijuana and the voters of our state will likely be faced with another ballot initiative in the next general election concerning the legalization of recreational use of marijuana.  If any of the proposed initiatives pass, new laws will be necessary concerning the commercial manufacture of marijuana and the creation and regulation of marijuana dispensaries.

13 Jul
Numinen Elected CDAM Officer
Posted Under General

CDAM-Logo\r\n\r\nKarl P. Numinen will serve as Vice President and Executive Board member of the Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan after being elected in 2015.  CDAM is the largest state-wide association of criminal defense lawyers in the State of Michigan.  Its mission is to provide continuing legal education to criminal defense lawyers, instill the highest standards of quality and integrity in the defense bar, and to advocate before the Legislature and the Michigan Supreme Court on important issues of concern to the criminal justice system.\r\n\r\nFor more information go to www.cdamonline.org

17 May
Pence Wins Big For Michigan Mining Company
Posted Under General

A Dickinson County jury awarded Pence & Numinen client Michigan Mining more than half a million dollars after an intense trial earlier this month.  The case began as a multimillion dollar lawsuit filed by Melvin R. Silta and his corporate demolition company against Michigan Mining over an alleged breach of contract.  Silta claimed he was owed over six million dollars for work he was hired to do at a now-defunct Upper Peninsula mine site.  Michigan Mining filed a counter-claim for breach of contract.  The jury rendered its verdict on the ninth day of trial awarding Silta nothing for its claims and awarding Michigan Mining a verdict for almost $600,000 on its counter-claims against Silta.  Michigan Mining was represented by Steve Pence and attorney Daniel Jaspen.

31 Mar
Numinen Named “Super Lawyer” for 2015
Posted Under General

Karl Numinen was chosen for selection to the 2015 Michigan Super Lawyers list, an honor reserved for no more than five percent of the attorneys in the State of Michigan.  “Super Lawyers” recognizes attorneys who have distinguished themselves in the legal practice and have demonstrated excellence in the practice of law.  Mr. Numinen has made the list every year since 2011.  This year’s list of “Super Lawyers” will be published in the Thomson Reuters Super Lawyers Magazine and in Hour Detroit magazine as well as the on-line editions.