Michigan Appeals Court Rules for Driver in Car Wash Fall

July 16, 2018

The Michigan appeals court is breaking new legal ground — at a self-serve car wash.

In a 2-1 decision, the court ruled in Tamara Woodring v. Phoenix Insurance Company that a woman who fell while washing her car can seek payment for her injuries from the car’s insurer. The court ruled that maintenance of Tamara Woodring’s car had a “direct casual influence” on her fall and injuries.

According to the court, Woodring’s employer-provided vehicle was insured by Phoenix Insurance. Woodring went to a self-serve car wash in early February, parked the vehicle, but left it running and began washing it. As she worked her way around to the rear of the vehicle, she slipped and fell, sustaining serious injuries.

Woodring believed she slipped due to ice. The appeals court noted it was undisputed that she was not entering, occupying, exiting, or touching the vehicle at the time of her fall, although she was using the car wash’s sprayer wand.

The trial court found in favor of the insurer and granted its motion for summary disposition.

Woodring appealed and the appeals court cited prior cases that found that “a vehicle is not necessarily ‘parked’ just because it is stopped, halted, standing, or otherwise not presently in motion. Indeed, our Supreme Court has indicated that a lack of vehicular movement merely triggers a requirement to consider whether the vehicle is therefore ‘parked.'”

The appeals court continued, “Thus, we now turn to our Supreme Court’s order to consider whether the causal connection between the plaintiff’s injuries and the maintenance of a motor vehicle as a motor vehicle is more than incidental, fortuitous, or ‘but for.'”

Judge Amy Ronayne Krause said it’s not a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Judge Jane Markey agreed. Their opinion sets a legal precedent.

Judge Michael Riordan disagreed, indicating the connection between Woodring’s injuries and her car was incidental.

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