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Cline v Allstate Ins Co (COA – UNP 6/21/2018; RB #3767)


Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket # 336299; Unpublished
Judges Beckering, Kelly, and O’Brien per Curiam
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: Not Applicable; Link to Opinion 

Disqualification for Uninsured Owners or Registrants of Involved Motor Vehicles or Motorcycles [§3113(b)]
Compulsory Insurance Requirements for Owners or Registrants of Motor Vehicles Required to Be Registered [§3101(1)]
Definition of Owner [§3101(2)(h)]


In this unanimous unpublished per curiam opinion, the Court of Appeals upheld the trial court’s grant of summary disposition regarding Plaintiff Clayton Cline’s (“Cline”) disqualification from PIP benefits for being the owner of an uninsured vehicle involved in a motor vehicle accident under MCL 500.3113(b). The Court upheld the trial court because it found that Cline failed to rebut the evidence that he was a constructive owner who had the right to use the vehicle involved for more than 30 days.

Cline and Paula Rzendzian (“Rzendzian”) were involved in a motor vehicle accident, which caused significant injuries to Cline. The two were driving in a 1988 Chevy S10 pickup truck that was uninsured at the time of the accident. The truck was titled to Bryan Keene, but evidence suggested either Cline or Rzendian purchased the truck from Gary Keene (“Gary”)—the father of Bryan Keene. Rzendzian argued that she was with Cline when he purchased the vehicle. Moreover, Gary alleged that he sold the vehicle to Client. Gary produced a handwritten receipt unsigned by Cline to prove the sale. Cline argued that Rzendzian had purchased the vehicle, and he had accompanied her as a friend to inspect the vehicle when she purchased it from Gary. Cline denied that he ever drove the truck and pointed to the testimony of a neighbor, Gusa, who testified she did not believe Cline ever drove the truck, or if he did, only a few times. Defendant Allstate Insurance Company (“Allstate”) denied Cline’s claim for first party PIP benefits alleging that he was the owner of the vehicle. The trial court found that Cline was a constructive owner and granted summary disposition for Allstate. Cline subsequently appealed.

The Court of Appeals found that Cline was a constructive owner of the vehicle, and therefore barred from recovery for first party PIP benefits. The Court noted that an “owner” is statutorily defined under MCL 500.3101 to include a person who has the unfettered use of a vehicle for more than 30 days. This can be established by a regular pattern of unsupervised usage, but not by spotty and exceptional use that requires permission. The Court found that the evidence provided by Allstate established that Cline entered into an agreement with Gary to purchase the truck and actually used the truck. Rzendzian provided the basis for establishing Cline had an unfettered right to use the truck because her testimony inferred that the truck was acquired for Cline’s use. Rzendzian testified that the truck was kept at Cline’s mother’s house, where Cline lived, and Cline kept the key on him. Moreover, Rzendian asked Cline for permission to use the vehicle. Although Cline presented evidence that he had not purchased the vehicle, Cline did not present evidence that he did not have a right to use the vehicle. Because an owner is one who comports with the concepts of ownership, not just actually using the vehicle, the unrebutted evidence demonstrated that Cline was a constructive owner.

“While plaintiff’s testimony may have created a factual dispute regarding whether he or Rzendzian purchased the truck and whether plaintiff actually drove the truck, plaintiff did not present any evidence specifically disputing Rzendzian’s testimony that plaintiff had a right to use the truck after it was acquired. In fact, the undisputed testimony established that plaintiff acted in ways clearly comporting with ownership.”

Thus, the Court of Appeals upheld the trial court’s grant of summary disposition for Allstate.

Michigan auto accident attorney Stephen Sinas is the lead editor of the appellate case summaries published on this site regarding the Michigan auto insurance law. To learn more about how Stephen Sinas and how the Sinas Dramis Law Firm can help you if you have been injured in a Michigan auto accident, visit

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