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Edwards v Henderson (COA – UNP 1/15/2019; RB #3834) 

 Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket # 339613; Unpublished
Judges Letica, Cavanagh, and Meter; per Curiam
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: Not Applicable; Link to Opinion.


 

STATUTORY INDEXING:
Disqualification for Uninsured Owners or Registrants of Involved Motor Vehicles or Motorcycles [§3113(b)]
Disqualification of Uninsured Owners / Operators for Noneconomic Loss [§3135(2)]
Compulsory Insurance Requirements for Owners or Registrants of Motor Vehicles Required to Be Registered [§3101(1)]
TOPICAL INDEXING:
Not applicable


SUMMARY:

In this unanimous unpublished per curiam opinion, the Court of Appeals upheld the trial court’s grant of summary disposition for Defendants Brandie Henderson (“Henderson”), Federal Express Corporation (“Fed Ex”), and Progressive Michigan Insurance Company (“Progressive”) regarding Plainitff Gerrika Edwards’ (“Edwards”) disqualification from no-fault benefits under MCL 500.3113(b) and disqualified from noneconomic loss in her tort claim under MCL 500.3135(2)(c), on the basis that Edwards failed to maintain no-fault insurance coverage on the vehicle involved, as required under MCL 500.3101(1). The Court reasoned that Edwards was disqualified, even though Edwards’ boyfriend Terry Jackson (“Jackson”), obtained no-fault insurance on the vehicle.  The Court reasoned that Jackson was not an owner since he did not have exclusive use of the vehicle for a time period greater than 30 days. Therefore, Jackson’s insurance policy on the vehicle did not save Edwards from disqualification under MCL 500.3113(b) or MCL 500.3135(2)(c).

Edwards was involved in a motor vehicle accident with Henderson, who was an employee of Fed Ex and drove a Fed Ex vehicle at the time of the accident. Edwards brought a claim to recover first-party PIP benefit from Progressive and brought a third-party action against Henderson and Fed Ex. The Defendants asserted that Edwards was barred from recovery for first-party benefits by MCL 500.3113(b) and barred from recovery for noneconomic loss benefits in her tort claim under MCL 500.3135(2)(c). Edwards argued that she should not be disqualified from no-fault benefits or noneconomic loss, because her boyfriend, Jackson, had purchased no-fault insurance for the vehicle, so it was not uninsured. 

Regarding the facts of Jackson’s connection to the vehicle, Jackson did not include Edwards on the no-fault coverage paperwork. Jackson helped Edwards pay for the vehicle, he had a set of keys to the vehicle, and he could use the vehicle whenever he wanted. The vehicle was registered and titled solely to Jackson. Jackson kept the vehicle at her home exclusively, and the two were not family relatives. Ultimately, the trial court found that Jackson was not an owner and granted the Defendants’ motion for summary disposition.

The Court of Appeals upheld the trial court’s grant of summary disposition because it found that Edwards was not an owner. The court noted that the no fault statute defines an 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.” The Court further explained that under Ardt v Titan Ins Co, 233 Mich App 685, 689; 593 NW2d 215 (1999), ownership requires “proprietary or possessory usage, as opposed to merely incidental usage under the direction or with the permission of another.” Based on those standards, the Court found there was no genuine issue of material fact that Jackson was not an owner of the vehicle.  The Court reasoned that Jackson’s use of the vehicle was not more than incidental. Edwards and Jackson did not have an arrangement for Jackson to have exclusive use of the vehicle. Although Jackson had keys to the vehicle, his use would have been more “like borrowing” than an exclusive use. Finally, the Court distinguished John v John, 47 Mich App 413, 417; 209 NW2d 536 (1973) because Edwards and Jackson were not relatives, they did not live together, and Jackson never drove the vehicle. In this regard, the Court stated:

“In his affidavit, Jackson stated that he “felt” like he co-owned the Tahoe with plaintiff because he helped to purchase and maintain the Tahoe, had a set of keys to it, and could use it whenever he wanted without asking permission. We agree with the trial court that Jackson’s affidavit is insufficient to raise a genuine issue of material fact as to his ownership of the Tahoe under the facts of this case. In other words, Jackson did not use the Tahoe in ways that comported with the concepts of ownership, i.e., there was no evidence of proprietary or possessory usage by Jackson. See Ardt, 233 Mich App at 690-691. Unlike the facts in Twitchel, there was no arrangement allowing Jackson exclusive and permanent use of the Tahoe. See Twitchel, 469 Mich at 531.”

Because there was no genuine issue of material fact that Jackson was not an “owner” who provided insurance to the vehicle, the vehicle was not insured by an owner, and, therefore, Edwards was disqualified from recovering no-fault benefits and noneconomic loss damages in her tort claim.

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