Archive for October, 2017

Constructive Ownership of a Motor Vehicle – PIP

Written by Joseph Collison

MCL 500.3101(1) provides that the “owner or registrant of a motor vehicle required to be registered in this state shall maintain security for payment of benefits under personal protection insurance[.]” The statute defines “owner” to include (1) a person “having the use of a motor vehicle, under a lease or otherwise, for a period that is greater than 30 days,” and (2) a person “that holds the legal title to a motor vehicle[.]” MCL 500.3101(2)(k)(i) and (iii).

Under MCL 500.3113, a person is precluded from receiving PIP benefits if, at the time of the accident, he was the owner or registrant of the vehicle involved in the accident and the insurance required under MCL 500.3101(1) was not in effect. As the Court of Appeals recognized in Ardt v Titan Ins Co, 233 Mich App 685, 690; 593 NW2d 215 (1999), the “statutory provisions at issue operate to prevent users of motor vehicles from obtaining the benefits of personal protection insurance without carrying their own insurance through the expedient of keeping title to their vehicles in the names of family members.”

But a motor vehicle may have more than one owner for purposes of the no-fault act. Id. at 691-692. And as long as at least one owner or registrant had the insurance required by MCL 500.3101(1), PIP benefits may be recovered by another owner. Barnes v Farmers Ins Exch, 308 Mich App 1, 8; 862 NW2d 681 (2014). However “when none of the owners maintains the requisite coverage, no owner may recover PIP benefits.” Id. at 8-9.

Policy Exclusions Are Affirmative Defenses Which Must Be Pled

Written by Joseph Collison

“While the burden of proving coverage is on the insured, it is incumbent on the insurer to prove that an exclusion to coverage is applicable.” Pioneer State Mut Ins Co v Dells, 301 Mich App 368. The Appellate Courts have made clear that “[r]eliance on an exclusionary clause in an insurance policy is an affirmative defense.” Shelton v Auto-Owners Ins Co, 318 Mich App 648.

Interpretation of Insurance Policies

Written by Joseph Collison

The interpretation of an insurance policy presents a question of law that is reviewed de novo (from the beginning; all over again). Dancey v Travelers Prop Cas Co, 288 Mich App 1, (2010). “Because insurance policies are contractual agreements, they are subject to the same rules of contract interpretation that apply to contracts in general.” Sherman-Nadiv v Farm Bureau Gen Ins Co of Mich, 282 Mich App 75 (2008). Unambiguous language must be enforced as written. Century Surety Co v Charron, 230 Mich App 79 (1998). A court must “give effect to every word, phrase, and clause in a contract and avoid an interpretation that would render any part of the contract surplusage or nugatory.” Klapp v United Ins Group Agency, Inc, 468 Mich 459 (2003).

This holds true for both sides. Clever attempts to parse policy language will not be tolerated.