Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket #359942; Unpublished
Judges Kelly, Swartzle, and Feeney; Per Curiam
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: Not Applicable; Link to Opinion
Disqualification for Unlawful Taking and Use of a Vehicle [§3113(a)]
In this unanimous, unpublished, per curiam decision, the Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s denial of Defendant Allstate Insurance Company’s (“Allstate”) motion for summary disposition, in which it sought dismissal of Plaintiff Javell Cyrus’s action for no-fault PIP benefits arising out of injuries she sustained while operating a rental car her grandfather rented. The Court of Appeals held that there was no question of fact that Cyrus was disqualified under the unlawfully taken provision set forth MCL 500.3113(a) because she operated the rental car without authority from the rental car company. In this regard, the Court of Appeals found that Cyrus took the vehicle without authority because she knew she was not an added driver to the car rental agreement, and because she did not have a driver’s license, which the rental car company required to authorize a person to drive one of its vehicles.
Javell Cyrus was injured in a motor vehicle collision while operating a rental car rented by her grandfather. Cyrus’s grandfather did not add Cyrus as a driver on the rental agreement, and Cyrus knew she was not an added driver. Furthermore, Cyrus did not have a driver’s license, and the rental car company always required a person to have a license in order to authorize the person to drive one of its vehicles. Allstate denied her claim for PIP benefits thereafter, asserting that her operation of the rental car was unlawful under MCL 500.3113(a). Allstate then moved for summary disposition in Cyrus’s lawsuit against it, but the trial court denied its motion, ruling that there was a question of fact as to whether Cyrus was knowingly operating the rental car without authority.
The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s denial of Allstate’s motion, holding that there was no question of fact that Cyrus knowingly operated the rental car without authority, and, therefore, was disqualified under MCL 500.3113(a). The Court reasoned that Cyrus unlawfully took the rental vehicle for the same essential reasons the injured plaintiff in Ahmed v Tokio Marine America Ins Co, 331 Mich App 1 (2021) was found to have unlawfully taken the rental car at issue in that case. To that effect, the Court of Appeals recognized that under the facts of the rental car agreement, there was no question of fact Cyrus was knowingly operating the motor vehicle without the authority of the rental car company. The Court specifically held:
“In this case, there is no genuine issue of material fact that plaintiff willingly agreed to operate the vehicle after being asked to drive it by her grandfather. Further, plaintiff’s driving of the vehicle was contrary to the Michigan Vehicle Code because she was driving it without a valid license. See Ahmed, 337 Mich App at 20 n 8. Violating the Michigan Vehicle Code constitutes unlawful conduct for purposes of MCL 500.3113(a). See id. at 11 n 5. Thus, there is no genuine issue of material fact that plaintiff took the vehicle unlawfully. Lastly, as this Court has explained in Ahmed, drivers are required to know their driving status, id. at 26-27, and plaintiff certainly knew that she was without a valid license at the time of the collision because she pleaded guilty to driving with a revoked or suspended license a few weeks before the collision. Further, plaintiff did not pay to have her license reinstated until the day after the collision. Thus, plaintiff should have known that she took the vehicle unlawfully because she knew that she did not have a valid license at the time she was driving the vehicle.”
In should be noted that in reaching this holding, the Court of Appeals explained its reasoning in such a way that could be misinterpreted to mean that the Court was holding that the mere fact Cyrus was driving without a license caused her to be disqualified under the unlawfully taken provision of MCL 500.3113(a). However, when the Court’s reliance on Ahmed is properly considered, it is clear the Court was holding that the Cyrus’s lack of a driver’s license was another way in which it could be shown that Cyrus was operating the rental car without the authority of the rental car company. To be sure, there is no precedent under the Michigan No-Fault Law that supports a person being disqualified under the unlawful taking provision of MCL 500.3113(a) merely because a person was operating a motor vehicle without a license.