Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket #268500; Unpublished
Judges Whitbeck, Saad, and Schuette; unanimous; per curiam
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: Not applicable, Link to Opinion
In this unanimous unpublished per curiam opinion, decided without oral argument, the Court of Appeals affirmed summary disposition for defendant car rental company, finding that it was not liable for the actions of a live-in boyfriend of a married woman to whom it had leased the car that was involved in the motor vehicle accident in which plaintiff was injured.
The plaintiff in this case was injured when a vehicle driven by Michael Brookins ran a stop sign and collided with a bus in which plaintiff was a passenger. The vehicle Brookins was driving was leased by his girlfriend with whom he lived. His girlfriend, who was married to another man, had leased the vehicle from defendant Mirac. On the date of the accident, Brookins took the vehicle without his girlfriend’s knowledge or permission. Plaintiff sued defendant, arguing that defendant was liable under MCL 257.401, which provides that a lessor who leases a motor vehicle for 30 days or less is liable for an injury caused by the negligent operation of the motor vehicle “if the injury occurred while the leased motor vehicle was being operated by an authorized driver under the lease agreement or by the leasee’s spouse, father, mother, brother, sister, son, daughter, or other immediate family member.”
Plaintiff argued that because Brookins lived with his girlfriend, he was an “immediate family member.” The Court of Appeals disagreed and affirmed, finding that even if Brookins and his girlfriend constituted a “quasi-family unit,” it would be difficult to characterize Brookins as a family member because his girlfriend was married to another man. In this regard, the court stated:
“Plaintiff argues that, given the changing mores, values, and various nontraditional associations that function as quasi-family units, this Court should recognize that domestic partners, friends, and others may effectively constitute ‘other immediate family members.’ However, even if this panel were to accept this argument, it would be difficult to characterize Brookins as an ‘other immediate family member’ under the facts of this case because it is highly improbable that the Michigan Legislature intended that the partner to an adulterous relationship with a spouse would be considered as an ‘other immediate family member’ for purposes of imposing liability on a car rental company. Therefore, we conclude that the circuit court did not err in finding that Brookins was not an other immediate family member’ of Collins and, therefore, Brookins was not a driver for whom a car rental company would be liable under the statute or the rental agreement.”