Michigan Supreme Court to hear oral arguments Tuesday

Two cases involving Michigan’s medical marihuana statute will be argued before the Michigan Supreme Court this week, as the Court opens its 2012-2013 oral arguments session.

At issue in State of Michigan v McQueen is whether the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act permits patient-to-patient sales of marihuana. The Court will also hear People v Bylsma, in which the defendant argues that the MMMA allows registered caregivers and qualifying patients to grow marihuana together in a collective or cooperative arrangement.

The Court will hear arguments on Oct. 9-11, starting at 9:30 a.m. each day.

The Court’s oral arguments are open to the public.

As a public service, the Court provides summaries of the cases it will hear at www.courts.michigan.gov/Courts/MichiganSupremeCourt/Clerks/Oral-Arguments/Pages/default.aspx.

In keeping with tradition, the Court will hear the first case of the new session, Boertmann v Cincinnati Insurance Company, in the Old Supreme Court Courtroom in the Capitol in Lansing. The Court will hear the 11 other cases in its courtroom on the 6th floor of the Michigan Hall of Justice in Lansing.

Please note: These brief accounts may not reflect the way that some or all of the Court’s seven justices view the cases. The attorneys may also disagree about the facts, issues, procedural history, and significance of these cases. For further details about the cases, please contact the attorneys.

BOERTMANN v CINCINNATI INSURANCE COMPANY (case no. 142936)
Attorneys for plaintiff Gale Boertmann: Ellen G. Schreuder, Drew Slager
Attorney for defendant Cincinnati Insurance Company: Robert P. Hurley
Attorney for amicus curiae Michigan Defense Trial Counsel, Inc.: Valerie Henning Mock
Attorney for amicus curiae Michigan Association for Justice: Barbara H. Goldman
Trial Court: Macomb County Circuit Court

At issue is whether the plaintiff can recover auto no-fault insurance benefits for physical symptoms caused by her depression, which she suffered after witnessing the fatal collision between her son’s motorcycle and another vehicle.

Background
Gale Boertmann was in her car following her son Chris on his motorcycle when another driver cut across the road and collided with Chris; Boertmann, who saw the collision, pulled her car over and went to her son as he lay bleeding in a nearby parking lot. Chris was pronounced dead approximately 30 minutes after the collision.

Boertmann sank into depression after her son’s death, suffering from sleep loss, nightmares, memory loss, and headaches; she took a leave of absence from her job. Her treating psychologists diagnosed her as suffering from “post-traumatic stress disorder and a major depressive disorder, single episode, severe without psychotic features.”
Boertmann filed a claim for no-fault personal protection insurance (PIP) benefits from her insurer, Cincinnati Insurance Company, which denied her claim. She then sued Cincinnati Insurance to recover benefits for wage loss, replacement services, and her medical expenses. Both parties filed a motion for summary disposition under MCR 2.116(C)(10), with the central question being whether Boertmann’s injuries arose out of the use of a motor vehicle as a motor vehicle, as required by MCL 500.3105(1). The statute explains that, “[u]nder personal protection insurance an insurer is liable to pay benefits for accidental bodily injury arising out of the ownership, operation, maintenance or use of a motor vehicle as a motor vehicle . . . .”

Initially, the trial court ruled in Cincinnati’s favor, concluding that, although the motor vehicle involved in the collision “certainly contributed to cause the condition which produced plaintiff’s injury in this matter . . . the motor vehicle itself, did not produce plaintiff’s injury.” But the trial court then granted Boertmann’s motion for reconsideration, and ruled that there was a sufficient causal connection between her injury and the motor vehicle collision; the court ordered Cincinnati Insurance to pay benefits.

The Court of Appeals affirmed in a published opinion. The appellate court emphasized that, according to Boertmann’s psychologists, her injuries, including her depression, were the result of her having witnessed her son’s fatal collision. Boertmann’s injuries did not, the panel held, need to result from her own use of a motor vehicle to fall within the scope of MCL 500.3105(1), nor did Boertmann’s injuries need to result from physical contact with a motor vehicle. Boertmann’s injuries arose out of the use of a motor vehicle as a motor vehicle, the Court of Appeals concluded; she was therefore entitled to PIP benefits.

Cincinnati Insurance appeals.

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