No-Fault Update: Public Buses Are “Motor Vehicles” Under The No-Fault Act And Are Required To Provide No-Fault Benefits To Uninsured Injured Passengers.

In State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Metropolitan Council, Minnesota Court of Appeals held that buses operated by the Metropolitan Council are “motor vehicles” for purposes of the Minnesota No-Fault Act. A13-2176, — N.W.2d —, (Minn. App. Sept. 22, 2014).  As a result, public bus company must provide no-fault benefits to bus passengers who do not have their own auto insurance and are injured in bus accidents.

This decision is significant in priority-of-benefits disputes between claimants, insurers, and public buses.  It reverses the Metro Council’s longstanding position that uninsured passengers injured in bus accidents must go to the other vehicle’s insurer or to the Assigned Claims Plan for no-fault benefits.  Now, if an injured passenger is uninsured, the passenger will first go to the to public bus company or its insurer for no-fault benefits.  In short, public buses are now treated like every other privately owned vehicle and are subject to the benefits priority statute, Minn. Stat. § 65B.47, subds. 1-4.

Aside, this decision does not make government vehicles such as fire trucks and police cars subject to the No-Fault Act.  In Mutual Service Cas. Ins. Co. v. League of Minnesota Cities Ins. Trust, 659 N.W.2d 755 (Minn. 2003), the Minnesota Supreme Court held that police cruisers and similar vehicles are not “motor vehicles” under the No-Fault Act because they are specifically excluded from the definition of “motor vehicle.”  Here, the Court carefully avoided Mutual Service by finding buses were not excluded from the Act’s definition of “motor vehicle.”

We will continue to monitor this case on appeal and other decisions concerning the priority of benefits under the No-Fault Act.  If you have any questions about this case, or any other matter, please contact us.