Insurance, judge's conduct on state high court's docket

By Ed White

Associated Press
DETROIT (AP) — If you hurt yourself while pulling stuff from your car, should your insurance company be on the hook for the injuries?
The Michigan Supreme Court is opening a new term this week with arguments in that case and many others, including alleged misconduct by an Ann Arbor-area judge who could lose his job.
In 2012, truck driver Daniel Kemp tore a calf muscle while stretching on his tiptoes to grab a thermos, briefcase and overnight bag, just 30 seconds after parking at home. He sought payments under his no-fault policy but Farm Bureau Insurance said no.

Kemp acknowledged that his truck wasn’t moving when he was hurt, but his lawyers said he should qualify for benefits under Michigan law because his injuries were related to the “transportational use” of the truck.

“I heard something go ‘pow’ and I fell to the ground,” Kemp said.

A Wayne County judge and the state appeals court, however, ruled against him. Farm Bureau Insurance said the appeals court decision in its favor was “common sense.”

If Kemp prevails at the Supreme Court, the company said, then insurance “must cover strained backs, sprained wrists, stubbed toes and any other common maladies that result from unloading groceries, grabbing a purse or wallet off the seat or even unbuckling an infant from a car seat.”

The Supreme Court will hear arguments in 11 cases this week.

Washtenaw County District Court Judge Cedric Simpson is battling to stay on the bench. He’s accused of interfering with the drunken driving arrest and prosecution of an intern in his office in 2013. The Judicial Tenure Commission is recommending the court remove him.

Simpson denies any misconduct. But if there’s a penalty, his lawyers said, it shouldn’t be more than a reprimand or brief suspension.

The Supreme Court is also hearing disputes about electricity. Consumers Energy wants the court to overturn a decision that allows Holland and Coldwater to offer power to properties historically served by the company.

The cases are being closely watched by other Michigan cities that have their own utilities as well as businesses that want to see lower prices through competition.