Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket #337448; Published
Judges Boonstra, Beckering, and Ronayne Krause; written by J. Boonstra
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: Not Applicable; Link to Opinion
Disqualification of Uninsured Owners / Operators for Noneconomic Loss [§3135(2)]
Disqualification of Uninsured Motorcyclist / Operators for Noneconomic Loss [§3135(3)]
In this unanimous published opinion written by Judge Boonstra, the Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s grant of summary disposition for Defendants Vincent McCarver (“McCarver”) and CR Motors of Adrian (“CR Motors”) regarding the disqualification of Plaintiff Tracy Brickey (“Brickey”) under MCL 500.3135(2)(c). The Court reversed the trial court because it found that the plain language of MCL 500.3135(2)(c) applied to motor vehicles and a motorcycle was not a motor vehicle.
Brickey was operating a motor cycle when he was struck by a vehicle driven by McCarver. Brickey brought an action against McCarver for negligence and CF Motors under the owner’s liability statute and doctrine of negligent entrustment. McCarver and CF Motors contended that Brickey did not have insurance on the motor cycle at the time of the accident and Brickey was precluded from recovery under MCL 500.3135(2)(c). The trial court agreed with Defendants, citing to Braden v Spencer, 100 Mich App 523; 299 NW2d 65 (1980), and granted summary disposition against Brickey. Brickey appealed. The language of the relevant provisions are as follows:
(2) For a cause of action for damages pursuant to subsection (1) filed on or after July 26, 1996, all of the following apply:
. . .
(c) Damages shall not be assessed in favor of a party who was operating his or her own vehicle at the time the injury occurred and did not have in effect for that motor vehicle the security required by section 3101 at the time the injury occurred.
[The definition of a motor vehicle] does not include any of the following:
(i) A motorcycle.
The Court of Appeals found that the plain language of MCL 500.3135(2)(c) only applied to motor vehicles and a motorcycle was not a motor vehicle. The Court first looked to the language of MCL 500.3135(2)(c) and determined that the section was only applicable to motor vehicles. The Court then cross-referenced the term motor vehicle with the definition of a motor vehicle provided in the No-Fault Act. Under MCL 500.3101(2)(i)(i) the No-Fault Act excluded motorcycles from the definition of motor vehicles. The Court then reasoned that since MCL 500.3135(2)(c) only referenced motor vehicles and motor vehicles did not include motorcycles, the subsection did not apply to a motorcycle because a motorcycle was not a motor vehicle for purposes of the Act.
“Inasmuch as the statute explicitly excludes motorcycles from the definition of “motor vehicle,” and therefore from the preclusive effect of MCL 500.3135(2)(c), the plain language of the statute unambiguously refutes the trial court’s statutory interpretation. See Robinson, 486 Mich at 15.”
The Court then went on to distinguish this case from Braden because Braden involved a defendant and applied to MCL 500.3135(3). The Court first explained that Braden was decided before MCL 500.3135(2)(c) was added in 1996. The Court explained that Braden was essentially analyzing what is now MCL 500.3135(3) and that its analysis is subject only to that subsection. Moreover, Braden was analyzing the exclusion of a defendant and not a plaintiff. This case was looking at a plaintiff and so it was distinguishable. Ultimately, the Court distinguished this case from Braden and essentially limited Braden to MCL 500.3135(3).
“Subsection (3) provides, in pertinent part: “(3) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, tort liability arising from the ownership, maintenance, or use within this state of a motor vehicle with respect to which the security required by section 3101 was in effect is abolished . . . .” MCL 500.3135(3) (emphasis added). In other words, and unlike subsection (2)(c), subsection (3) deals with a party’s exposure to tort liability as opposed to a party’s right to recover damages, and extinguishes tort liability for noneconomic losses for drivers of motor vehicles who carry proper insurance, apart from the exceptions found in MCL 500.3135(1). Subsection (3) has nothing to do with a plaintiff’s right to recover damages, and instead has everything to do with a defendant’s liability, irrespective of the plaintiff or the plaintiff’s mode of travel. See MCL 500.3135(3). Accordingly, it was irrelevant in Braden that the plaintiff was a motorcyclist, because the defendant was in any event immune from tort liability for the type of damages sought by the plaintiff.”
The Court thus reversed the trial court’s grant of summary disposition for Defendants and remanded the case.