Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket #362311; Unpublished
Judges Redford, O’Brien, and Feeney; Per Curiam
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: Not Applicable; Link to Opinion
In this unanimous, unpublished, per curiam decision, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s summary disposition order dismissing Plaintiff Beaumont Health’s (“Beaumont”) action for no-fault PIP benefits against Defendant Progressive Michigan Insurance Company (“Progressive”). Beaumont’s patient, Riley Holtslander, was involved in a motor vehicle accident while operating an uninsured motorcycle. The Court of Appeals held that Holtslander was a constructive owner of the motorcycle at the time of the accident under MCL 500.3101(3)(l)(i), and thus barred from PIP benefits related to the accident pursuant to MCL 500.3113(b).
Riley Holtslander’s girlfriend, Hannah Farley, purchased a motorcycle on May 25, 2020, hoping to one day learn how to ride it. Farley obtained the title from the seller the day of the purchase, but Holtslander drove it home to his mother’s house where he and Farley lived. The motorcycle remained at Holtslander’s mother’s house until he and Farley bought their own house, which Holtslander drove the motorcycle to after he and Farley moved in. On August 6, 2020, Holtslander was again driving the motorcycle—this time home from work—when he was involved in an accident with a motor vehicle. Holtslander received medical treatment after the accident from Beaumont, and Beaumont, in turn, sought PIP benefits from the insurer of the motor vehicle involved in the accident, Progressive. Progressive denied Beaumont’s claim, after which Beaumont’s filed suit and Holtslander was deposed. Regarding his usage of the motorcycle during the period between the date Farley purchased the motorcycle and the date of the accident, Holtslander testified that he was the only person who ever drove the motorcycle; that he maintained possession of the motorcycle; that the motorcycle had never been registered or insured; that the keys were left in the ignition whenever the motorcycle was not in use; and that he did not know whether he operated the motorcycle more than a dozen times. Based on this testimony, Progressive moved for summary disposition, arguing that there was no question of fact that Holtslander was a constructive owner of the motorcycle under MCL 500.3101(3)(l)(i), and thus barred from PIP benefits related to the accident pursuant to MCL 500.3113(b). The trial court agreed, granting Progressive’s motion.
The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s summary disposition order, holding that Holtslander was a constructive owner of the motorcycle at the time of the accident as a matter of law. The Court found no evidence to suggest that “Holtslander had to seek or ever sought permission to operate the motorcycle[;]” to the contrary, the evidence indicated that he had “unfettered access” to the motorcycle: he, and only he, drove it during the time period in question, and he testified that he maintained possession of it during the time period in question.
“Farley testified that she did not know how often Holtslander drove the motorcycle. Holtslander testified that the motorcycle was always parked with the keys in the ignition. No evidence indicates that Holtslander had to seek or ever sought permission to operate the motorcycle. Holtslander’s testimony reveals that he affirmed he had possession of the motorcycle. Holtslander admitted that only he drove the motorcycle between May 25, 2020 and August 6, 2020. He testified further that he lacked certainty how often the motorcycle had been driven. Holtslander did not testify and no evidence establishes that he only drove the motorcycle twice, as plaintiff contends. In fact, when Progressive’s counsel specifically asked Holtslander if he had driven the motorcycle more than a dozen times, Holtslander testified, “I’m not sure.” He did not deny it or specify how many times he drove it.
The evidence indicates that Holtslander had unfettered access to the motorcycle and had the use of it without seeking permission. No evidence suggests that he borrowed the motorcycle. No evidence indicates that he drove the motorcycle at Farley’s direction. Further, no evidence establishes that Farley put any limitations or restrictions on Holtslander’s use of it. Holtslander’s testimony indicates that he had use of the motorcycle for a period greater than 30 consecutive days from May 25, 2020 to August 6, 2020. The trial court did not err by concluding that Holtslander was an “owner” under MCL 500.3101(3)(l)(ii). Viewing the evidence in a light most favorable to plaintiff, the nonmoving party, the trial court correctly discerned that reasonable minds could not differ on the issue of Holtslander’s having use of the motorcycle for the requisite period making him a constructive owner under MCL 500.3101(3)(l)(ii).”