Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket #361259; Published
Judges Gleicher, Hood, and Maldonado; Authored by Judge Gleicher
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: Forthcoming; Link to Opinion
Compulsory Insurance Requirements for Owners or Registrants of Motor Vehicles Required to Be Registered [§3101(1)]
Obligation of Non-Resident Owner/Registrant to Insure a Vehicle [§3102(1)]
Exception for Employer Provided Vehicles [§3114(3)]
In this unanimous, published decision authored by Judge Gleicher, the Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s denial of Defendant ACE Property and Casualty Insurance Company’s (“ACE”) motion for summary disposition, in which it sought dismissal of Plaintiff Frankenmuth Mutual Insurance Company’s (“Frankmuth”) action for declaratory judgment regarding priority. The Court of Appeals held that a commercial truck, primarily registered outside of Michigan but with apportioned registration in other states—including Michigan—through the International Relations Plan (“IRP”), is not “registered” in Michigan for purposes of MCL 500.3114(3), and is not required to be covered by Michigan no-fault insurance if it is operated in Michigan for less than 30 days in any calendar year.
George Cialdella was injured while alighting from a commercial truck in Indiana. At the time of his injury, Cialdella was a Michigan resident who maintained personal no-fault insurance through Frankenmuth. The truck he was alighting from was owned by CHI—an Illinois corporation—and primarily registered in Illinois. The truck was also proportionally registered through the IRP in 48 other states, including Michigan, although had never actually been driven in Michigan at the time of Cialdella’s injury. Cialdella originally sought no-fault PIP benefits related to his injuries from Frankenmuth, and although Frankenmuth paid Cialdella’s benefits initially, it later filed a declaratory action against ACE—CHI’s insurance carrier—seeking a declaration that ACE was the highest priority insurer with respect to Cialdella’s claim pursuant to MCL 500.3114(3). Frankenmuth asserted that the truck Cialdella was alighting from was registered in Michigan by virtue of its apportioned registration through the IRP, and that ACE was therefore the highest priority insurer pursuant to MCL 500.3114(3). Frankenmuth further argued that the ACE policy covering the truck did, by its terms, provide for Michigan no-fault insurance. ACE, in turn, moved for summary disposition, arguing that the truck’s apportioned registration through the IRP did not mean that it was registered in Michigan for purposes of MCL 500.3114(3), and that its (ACE’s) policy did not provide for Michigan no-fault coverage. The trial court ultimately agreed with Frankenmuth, denying ACE’s motion and granting summary disposition in Frankenmuth’s favor.
The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s summary disposition order, holding (1) that apportioned registration through the IRP does not mean a foreign vehicle is “registered” in Michigan for purposes of MCL 500.3114(3); and (2) that a foreign vehicle with apportioned registration through the IRP that includes Michigan is not required to maintain Michigan no-fault insurance unless it is driven in Michigan ‘for an aggregate of more than 30 days in any calendar year’ pursuant to MCL 500.3102(1). The Court noted that “[t]he purpose of reciprocal registration under the IRP is to relieve trucking companies of the burden of complying with 48 different state registration requirements,” and that to “mandate[e] no-fault insurance coverage for all trucks proportionally registered in Michigan under the IRP . . . undermines the purpose of the plan.” In this case, then, CHI’s truck was not registered in Michigan for purposes of MCL 500.3114(3), and CHI was not required to maintain Michigan no-fault insurance on the truck because the truck was never actually driven in Michigan. The trial court erred, therefore, in finding that ACE was in the order of priority for payment of Cialdella’s PIP benefits pursuant to MCL 500.3114(3).
“A nonresident transporter may primarily register a truck outside of Michigan with an apportioned registration including Michigan under the IRP and avoid separate registration requirements in this state. If that truck is operated in Michigan ‘for an aggregate of more than 30 days in any calendar year,’ the nonresident owner will be required by MCL 500.3102(1) to secure no-fault automobile insurance. If it is not operated in Michigan, or operated for less than 30 days, no-fault insurance is not required. As the truck in this case was registered in Illinois and was not driven in Michigan, neither CHI nor KZ was required to secure no-fault insurance for the vehicle. The trial court erred in placing other insurance purchased by CHI and KZ into the order of priority to provide no-fault coverage for Cialdella’s injuries.”