Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket #271275; Unpublished
Judges Murphy, Kelly and Smolenski; 2-1 (Judge Kelly dissenting); per curiam
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: Not applicable, Link to Opinion
In this 2-1 unpublished per curiam opinion, decided without oral argument, the Court of Appeals determined that an independent contractor, who was injured while an occupant of a vehicle he had leased for more than 30 days from a trucking company, was entitled to no-fault personal injury protection benefits from the insurer of the vehicle.
The plaintiff in this case, an independent contractor, was injured in a motor vehicle accident while driving a semi-tractor he had leased from a trucking company. The trucking company insured the semi-tractor through defendant Amerisure. Amerisure argued it was not liable for plaintiff’s benefits under MCL 500.3114(3), because plaintiff was not “an employee” who sustained “an accidental bodily injury while an occupant of a motor vehicle owned or registered by the employer.” The trial court disagreed and the Court of Appeals affirmed. In affirming, the Court of Appeals explained that under Celina Mutual Insurance Company v Lake States Insurance Company, 452 Mich 84 (1996) [Item No. 1851], §3114(3) applies in the self-employment situation because the person is both the employer and the employee. Moreover, plaintiff “owned” the vehicle under MCL 500.3101(2)(g)(i), because he had leased it for a period of more than 30 days. In this regard:
“[P]ursuant to Celina, MCL 500.3114(3) applies in a self-employment situation because the self-employed person is considered both an ‘employee’ and his own ‘employer.’ Accordingly, it is inherent in the result and analysis of Celina, that a self-employed person operating a motor vehicle owned by that self-employed person in the course of his or her self-employment is both an employee and employer for purposes of MCL 500.3114(3). . . . Plaintiff owned the relevant motor vehicle, i.e., the semi-tractor, at the time of the accident as required for MCL 500.3114(3) to apply under the applicable definition of ‘owner’ in the no-fault act. Specifically, under MCL 500.3101(2)(g)(i), plaintiff was an owner of the semi-tractor based on his ‘having the use thereof, under a lease or otherwise, for a period that is greater than 30 days.’ The lease agreement between plaintiff and Sweet Express, which went into force more than 30 days before the accident, plainly contemplated that plaintiff would have use of the motor vehicle in hauling cargo. We believe that this alone is sufficient to constitute plaintiff having the use of the motor vehicle for over 30 days.”