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The Case Of Cassidy v. McGovern

A summary of the Michigan Supreme Court’s first interpretation of the Serious Impairment of Body Function injury threshold law, 1982

The Michigan Supreme Court’s 1982 decision in Cassidy v. McGovern was the first interpretation of the “Serious Impairment of Body Function” injury threshold. The four years following the Cassidy decision are considered an extremely restrictive era. In Cassidy, the Court completely changed the way the “Serious Impairment of Body Function” threshold was interpreted, and this interpretation in turn substantially restricted the rights to a jury trial for people injured in car accidents.

The decision was overturned four years later in the 1986 decision, DiFranco v. Pickard.

Serious Impairment Of Body Function

The Cassidy v. McGovern Court interpreted the Michigan No Fault Law’s “serious impairment of body function” language as follows:

Important Body Function

“Walking is an important body function, the serious impairment of which [due to collision-related injuries] constitutes [a] ‘serious impairment of body function.'”

General Ability To Live A Normal Life

“We believe that the Legislature intended an objective standard that looks to the effect of an injury on the person’s general ability to live a normal life.”

Objectively Manifested Injuries

The Legislature intended “to predicate recovery for noneconomic loss on objectively manifested injuries. Recovery for pain and suffering is not predicated on serious pain and suffering, but on injuries that affect the functioning of the body.”


“In determining the seriousness of the injury required for a ‘serious impairment of body function,’ this threshold should be considered in conjunction with the other threshold requirements for a tort action for noneconomic loss, namely death and permanent serious disfigurement. … The Legislature clearly did not intend to erect two significant obstacles to a tort action for noneconomic loss and one quite insignificant obstacle. … [A]n injury need not be permanent to be serious. Permanency is, nevertheless, relevant.”

Judge Or Jury? Judge

“We hold that when there is no factual dispute regarding the nature and extent of plaintiff’s injuries, the question of serious impairment of body shall be decided as a matter of law by the court. Likewise, if there is a factual dispute as to the nature and extent of a plaintiff’s injuries, but the dispute is not material to the determination whether plaintiff has suffered a serious impairment of body function, the court shall rule as a matter of law whether the threshold requirement of MCL 500.3135 … has been met.”

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