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Detroit Medical Center and Lakeland Neurocare Center v Citizens Insurance Company and Auto Club Insurance Association (On Reconsideration); (COA-UNP, 6/28/2007, RB #2902)

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Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket #266444; Unpublished
Judges Neff, O’Connell, and Murray; 2-1 (Judge O’Connell partially concurring and dissenting); per curiam
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: Not applicable, Link to Opinion courthouse image


STATUTORY INDEXING:
Disqualification for Unlawful Taking and Use of a Vehicle [3113(a)]

TOPICAL INDEXING:
Not applicable


CASE SUMMARY:
In this 2-1 unpublished per curiam opinion, the Court of Appeals determined that where an injured person did not know the vehicle in which he was riding was stolen, the person is not precluded from receiving no-fault benefits under MCL 500.3113(a).

In this case, Jerome Crutcher-Bey was seriously injured while a passenger in a motor vehicle that was insured by Citizens Insurance Company. Although it was undisputed that the car was stolen, there was no evidence connecting Crutcher-Bey and the other two teenagers involved in the accident to the car theft. The sole evidence concerning the car theft indicated the car was stolen from a convenience store parking lot by a Caucasian male; however, all three teenagers involved in the accident were African-American.

Plaintiffs, the Detroit Medical Center and Lakeland Neurocare, sued Citizens and Auto-Club Insurance Association, the Assigned Claims insurer, for payment of Crutcher-Bey’s no-fault personal injury protection benefits. Citizens argued that because the vehicle it insured was stolen and because Crutcher-Bey was smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol while a passenger in the car, Crutcher-Bey was precluded by MCL 500.3113(a) from recovering no-fault benefits. The trial court disagreed and granted plaintiffs’ motion for summary disposition. In affirming, the Court of Appeals noted the distinction between unlawful taking and unlawful use and emphasized the lack of proof that Crutcher-Bey was involved in any unlawful taking or joyriding. It further made clear that the mere presence in a motor vehicle is not enough to establish there was an unlawful taking. In this regard, the court stated:

Citizens essentially argues at length that mere unlawful use or possession of the New Yorker by Crutcher-Bey as a passenger who was smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol, suffices to constitute an ‘unlawful taking’ under MCL 500.3113(a). . . . Crutcher-Bey’s mere presence in the vehicle the day after it was stolen is insufficient to establish his unlawful taking of the vehicle, particularly given the evidence the car was stolen by someone other than the three occupants involved in the accident. . . . Contrary to Citizens’ argument, the phrase ‘taking unlawfully’ cannot be read so broadly as to encompass Crutcher-Bey’s mere use of the car as a passenger. We find no error in the trial court’s grant of summary disposition in favor of plaintiffs on the issue of coverage.”


Lansing car accident lawyer 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 SinasDramis.com.

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