Injured? Contact Sinas Dramis for a free consultation.


Twichel v MIC General Insurance Corporation; (COA-PUB, 5/31/2002, RB #2302)


Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket No. 228363; Published
Judges Smolenski, Neff and White; unanimous
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: 251 Mich. App. 476, Link to Opinion courthouse graphic

Compulsory Insurance Requirements for Owners or Registrants of Motor Vehicles Required to Be Registered [3101(1)]
Definition of Owner [3101(2)(h)]
Disqualification for Uninsured Owners or Registrants of Involved Motor Vehicles or Motorcycles [3113(b)]

Uninsured Motorist Benefits: Uninsured Motorist Coverage in General

In this unanimous published opinion by Judge Smolenski, the Court of Appeals held that plaintiff’s decedent was entitled to no-fault PIP benefits and uninsured motorist benefits because the decedent did not own the uninsured pickup truck that he was driving at the time of his death. Accordingly, plaintiff’s decedent was not disqualified from recovering the claimed benefits under either the statute or the insurance policy.

The plaintiff’s decedent was in the process of buying the vehicle for the agreed upon price of $600. Plaintiff’s decedent had given the title holder $300 of the agreed upon price and took possession of the truck and the keys. However, the seller retained the truck’s title until such time as the remainder of the purchase price was paid. Before the accident, the title holder switched the plates to another vehicle. A few days later, the fatal accident occurred.

Defendant refused to pay no-fault benefits to decedent’s estate because of the provisions of section 3113(b) which disallows the payment of PIP benefits where the injured person was the owner or registrant of a motor vehicle involved in the accident which was not insured in compliance with the Act. The Court of Appeals held that plaintiff’s decedent was not an owner because he only had the right to use the vehicle for more than 30 days, but did not have actual use of the vehicle for more than 30 days. In so holding, the court stated:

“... for purposes of determining ownership under MCL 500.3101(2)(g)(i), we conclude that an individual must have actual use of the motor vehicle, not merely the right to use the motor vehicle, for more than thirty days. Here, it is undisputed that the decedent had the use of the motor vehicle for less than thirty days. Therefore, the decedent was not an ‘owner’ of the vehicle under this statutory provision.”

The court also rejected the contention that plaintiff was an owner under MCL 500.3101(2)(g)(iii) because he had the immediate right of possession of the pickup truck under an “installment sale contract.” The court noted that the purchase arrangement in this case did not rise to the level of an “installment sale contract” because the transaction “was not a retail sale or a commercial transaction, and the decedent therefore had no immediate right of possession under an installment sale contract.”

Finally, the court held that decedent’s estate was not barred from receiving uninsured motorist benefits pursuant to the “owned vehicle exclusion” in the uninsured motorist endorsement. That portion of the policy did not define “owner.” In that regard, the court stated:

it is somewhat disingenuous for defendant to suggest that the term takes a different meaning under the policy than it does under the relevant statutes, particularly where the policy does not otherwise define the term.... Having found that the decedent was not the ‘owner’ of the vehicle under the no-fault act, we also find that he did not own the vehicle pursuant to the insurance policy. To the extent that the policy is ambiguous on what constitutes ownership, that ambiguity must be construed against defendant as the drafter of the policy and in favor of coverage.”

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

Copyright © 2024  Sinas Dramis Law Firm, George Sinas, Stephen Sinas.
All Rights Reserved.
Login (Publishers Only)