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Epps, et al v United Servs Auto Assoc, et al (COA – UNP 11/3/2022; RB #4501)   

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Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket #357818; Unpublished  
Judges Rick, O’Brien, and Patel; Per Curiam 
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: Not Applicable; Link to Opinion


STATUTORY INDEXING: 
Compulsory Insurance Requirements for Owners or Registrants of Motor Vehicles Required to Be Registered [§3101(1)]
Disqualification of Uninsured Owners / Operators for Noneconomic Loss [§3135(2)]

TOPICAL INDEXING: 
Not Applicable


SUMMARY: 
In this unanimous, unpublished, per curiam decision, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s summary disposition order dismissing Plaintiff Ophelia Epps’s auto negligence action against Defendants Destiny Johnson and Tammy Jones.  At the time of the crash, Epps was a resident of Georgia, had registered her vehicle in Michigan, but had purchased a Georgia auto insurance policy.  The Court of Appeals held that because Epps registered the vehicle in Michigan, she was also required under MCL 500.3101(1) to insure the vehicle with Michigan no-fault insurance pursuant to MCL 500.3101(1).  The Court then held that because Epps failed to maintain the security required by MCL 500.3101(1), she was  barred from recovering damages in tort by MCL 500.3135(2)(c).

Ophelia Epps suffered injuries as a result of her vehicle being rear-ended by two separate vehicles, driven by Destiny Johnson and Tammy Jones, respectively.  At the time of the accident, Epps had been living in Georgia for approximately seven years and insured her vehicle under a Georgia automobile insurance policy, but she registered the vehicle in Michigan.  After the accident, Epps filed an auto negligence action against Johnson and Jones, and Johnson and Jones moved for summary disposition, arguing that Epps did not maintain the security required by MCL 500.3101(1) on her vehicle and was therefore barred from recovery in tort by MCL 500.3135(2)(c).  Epps argued, in response, that because she was an out-of-state resident who had not been in the state for 30 days, she was not “required” to register her vehicle under a Michigan no-fault insurance policy for purposes of MCL 500.3101(1), and that, as a result, MCL 500.3135(2)(c) did not apply.  The trial court ultimately granted Johnson and Jones’s motion.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s summary disposition order, holding that nonresident vehicle owners who register their vehicles in Michigan must maintain the security required by MCL 500.3101(1).  Having failed to do so, the Court further held that Epps was precluded from recovery in tort by the unambiguous language of MCL 500.3135(2)(c).

“However, nonresident owners are required to register their vehicle in Michigan under certain circumstances. See i.e., MCL 257.243(4) (requiring a nonresident owner of a pleasure vehicle to register their vehicle when operated in the state for more than 90 days). This Court has recognized that ‘Michigan residents must register their vehicles and maintain adequate insurance under the act, and out-of-state residents must obtain Michigan no-fault coverage if they operate a vehicle in Michigan for more than 30 days in a calendar year pursuant to MCL 500.3102(1).’ Tienda v Integon Natl Ins Co, 300 Mich App 605, 620 n 3; 834 NW2d 908 (2013). Therefore, it follows that an alleged nonresident owner who registered their vehicle in Michigan must maintain the required insurance under the Michigan no-fault act to remain eligible for benefits under the Michigan no-fault insurance system. See id. Because plaintiff registered her vehicle in Michigan, she was required to maintain the required coverage under MCL 500.3101(1). 

‘The language of MCL 500.3135(2)(c) is unambiguous: individuals injured while operating a motor vehicle that is both owned by them and uninsured in violation of MCL 500.3101 are not entitled to recover damages.’ Brickey v McCarver, 323 Mich App 639, 648; 919 NW2d 412 (2018). In the trial court, plaintiff acknowledged that the Georgia policy did not include Michigan PIP benefits. Because plaintiff failed to maintain the required coverage under MCL 500.3101(1), her third-party claims were barred by MCL 500.3135(2)(c). Therefore, the trial court did not err by granting summary disposition in favor of defendants.” 


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 SinasDramis.com.

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