“Owner” of a Motor Vehicle – “Owner by Use”

Written by Joseph Collison

MCL 500.3101(2)(k)(i) defines “owner” as “[a] person renting a motor vehicle or having the use of a motor vehicle, under a lease or otherwise, for a period that is greater than 30 days.”

Importantly, there may be “multiple owners of a motor vehicle.” Ardt v Titan Ins Co, 233 Mich App 685, 691; 593 NW2d 215, 218 (1999). In Ardt, the Court held that “‘having the use’ of a motor vehicle for purposes of defining ‘owner,’ means using the vehicle in ways that comport with concepts of ownership.” Id. at 690 (citation omitted). The Ardt Court continued:

The provision does not equate ownership with any and all uses for thirty days, but rather equates ownership with “having the use” of a vehicle for that period. Further, we observe that the phrase “having the use thereof” appears in tandem with references to renting or leasing. These indications imply that ownership follows from proprietary or possessory usage, as opposed to merely incidental usage under the direction or with the permission of another. [Id. at 690-691.]

“[I]t is not necessary that a person actually have used the vehicle for a thirty-day period before a finding may be made that the person is the owner. Rather, the focus must be on the nature of the person’s right to use the vehicle.” Twichel v MIC Gen Ins Corp, 469 Mich 524 (2004).

51% Rule – Comparative Negligence – Automobile Accidents

Written by Joseph Collison

If a party is found for be more than 50 percent at fault for his or her injuries, he or she cannot recover non-economic damages. MCL 500.3135(2)(b). Generally, comparative fault is a question of fact for the jury. Zaremba Equipment Inc v Harco Nat’l Ins Co, 280 Mich App 16 (2008). However, if no reasonable juror could conclude that the defendant was more at fault than the plaintiff, then the trial court may grant summary disposition on an issue of comparative fault. See Huggins v Scripter, 469 Mich 898 (2003).

Standard of Review – Summary Disposition Based on Lack of Material Factual Dispute

Written by Joseph Collison

When deciding a summary disposition motion under MCR 2.116(C)(10), the trial court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party, and refrain from making credibility determinations or weighing the evidence. Pioneer State Mut Ins Co v Dells, 301 Mich App 368, 377; 836 NW2d 257 (2013). “[I]f material evidence conflicts, it is not appropriate to grant a motion for summary disposition under MCR 2.116(C)(10).” Id.

Automobile negligence – use of center left turn lane.

Written by Joseph Collison

Case: Christiansen v. Tazelaar
Court: Michigan Court of Appeals ( Unpublished Opinion )
Judges: Per Curiam – Wilder, Boonstra, and O’Brien

 Plaintiff sued defendant claiming he suffered various spinal injuries when defendant’s car collided with his car in a turn lane. The trial court found that, because defendant had the right-of-way, he did not owe plaintiff a “‘sufficient enough duty to sustain this negligence action,’” and that he did not breach the general duty that all motorists owe to each other. On appeal, the court rejected plaintiff’s argument that the trial court erred by holding that he failed to establish a prima facie case of negligence, noting he “did not offer any documentary evidence to support the allegation that defendant had violated MCL 257.634(2).” (This statute prohibits traveling in the center turn lane for an unreasonable amount of time).