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

Written by Joseph Collison on . Posted in Legal Updates

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).