Reversing a trial court’s grant of summary judgment for the plaintiff policyholder, the Oregon Court of Appeals found that a plaintiff’s injuries from being struck by a bicyclist as she crossed the street did not trigger PIP coverage under her auto insurance policy. In this case, the plaintiff had parked her car across the street from her residence and took several work related items from her back seat (although leaving her purse) and locked the car. She then crossed the street, descended a set of stairs to her home and opened the front door. Putting down the load she had taken from the car, she put a leash on her dog and walked with her dog across the street back to her car. She then unlocked the car doors and moved some of her personal times from the front seat to the hatchback of her car. She then closed and locked her car again and began to cross the street back to her house. When she was approximately three-quarters of the way across the road, she was struck by a cyclist riding down the hill and was injured.
After the accident, the plaintiff sought to recover her medical expenses and lost income and filed a claim for PIP benefits under her automobile policy with State Farm. State Farm denied the claim on the basis that the accident was not the result of her “use” or “occupancy” of her car and, thus, fell outside the coverage prescribed under the terms of her policy and the Oregon PIP statute. On summary judgment motions of both parties, the trial court found that the facts “show that the injury resulted form the use of the vehicle [and was] a consequence resulting from plaintiff’s use of the vehicle to transport and store items.” The trial court found that it was immaterial that she did not intend to return to her car again after locking it and that she might have taken the dog for a walk after crossing the street had she not been injured and thus, her injuries resulted from her “use” of the car.
The Court of Appeals reversed finding that a causal nexus between the use of the plaintiff’s car and the injury by the cyclist was lacking. The court found that there must be a “consequential nexus between the use and injurious event” for recovery to occur. Accordingly, in this case, there was no nexus as the injured cyclist “was going to be there regardless of plaintiff’s use of the car –and, other than in a pure “but for” sense, nothing about plaintiff’s use of the car enhanced the likelihood that she would suffer an injury because of being struck by a cyclist.”