Netter v. Bowman
Michigan Auto Accident Injury Law: Important Changes
Netter v. Bowman’s extra-textual interpretation of ‘objectively manifested’ requirement is overruled; McCormick v. Carrier restores proper legal standard that car accident victims must meet
IMPORTANT: The published Michigan Court of Appeals ruling for Netter v. Bowman was overruled by the Michigan Supreme Court in McCormick v. Carrier.
In what many lawyers called a quintessential example of inexcusable “judicial activism,” the Michigan Court of Appeals in its published 2006 ruling in Netter v. Bowman adopted the following interpretation of the “objectively manifested” requirement in the “serious impairment of body function” threshold law:
“[W]e conclude that the current meaning of ‘objectively manifested’… requires that a plaintiff ‘s injury must be capable of objective verification by a qualified medical person either because the injury is visually apparent or because it is capable of detection through the use of medical testing.” [Emphasis added]
The result was that many deserving car accident victims were denied justice.
Although it took another four years to occur, the wrongs of the Court of Appeals were righted when the Michigan Supreme Court decided McCormick v. Carrier in 2010.
Not only did the justices make clear what “objectively manifested” meant:
“[T]he common meaning of ‘objectively manifested’ in MCL 500.3135(7) is an impairment that is evidenced by actual symptoms or conditions that someone other than the injured person would observe or perceive as impairing a body function [“such as walking, crouching, climbing an lifting weight”]. In other words, on ‘objectively manifested’ impairment is commonly understood as one observable or perceivable from actual symptoms or conditions.”
“[W]hile an injury is the actual damage or wound, an impairment generally relates to the effect of that damage,” such as where the body function is “‘weakened, diminished, or damaged’” or the body is “‘functioning poorly or inadequately.’”
“[W]hen considering an ‘impairment,’ the focus ‘is not on the injuries themselves, but how the injuries affected a particular body function.’”
But the justices also clarified (in footnote 11) that the statements in Netter did not comport with what was required under the threshold law:
“[T]he Court of Appeals decisions that have gone beyond the plain language of the statute and imposed an extra-textual ‘objectively manifested injury’ requirement, in clear contravention of Legislative intent [which required an “objectively manifested impairment”], are overruled to the extent that they are inconsistent with this opinion.”
The McCormick ruling also resulted in substantial, long-overdue changes to Michigan’s Model Civil Jury Instruction for the definition of “Serious Impairment of Body Function.”