Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket No. 296502; Unpublished
Judges Hoekstra, Murray, and M. J. Kelly; Unanimous, Per Curiam
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: Not applicable; Link to Opinion
The Michigan Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals decision on 7/31/12; Link to Opinion
Disqualification for Unlawful Taking and Use of a Vehicle [§3113(a)]
In this unanimous unpublished per curiam opinion, the Michigan Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s grant of summary disposition in favor of Progressive Marathon Insurance Company and the intervening insurance company, Citizens Insurance Company of America, on the issue of whether Ryan DeYoung was entitled to no-fault coverage through his wife’s no-fault insurance policy for the injuries he sustained in a motor vehicle accident that occurred on September 17, 2008. The Court of Appeals ultimately reversed the trial court on the basis that the trial court failed to apply the “family joyriding exception” to MCL 500.3113 as established by the Michigan Supreme Court in Priesman v Meridian Mut Ins Co, 441 Mich 60 (1992). However, despite reversing the trial court for not applying Priesman, the Court of Appeals openly questioned the reasoning of Priesman and whether the decision should be overturned by the Michigan Supreme Court.
The injured person in this case, Ryan DeYoung, was injured in a motor vehicle accident that occurred on September 17, 2008 when he was driving an Oldsmobile Bravada that was owned by his wife, Nicole DeYoung, and insured under her no-fault insurance policy through Progressive Marathon Insurance Company. Notably, Ryan DeYoung was an excluded driver on his wife’s insurance policy and was told he was not allowed to drive the vehicle. Nevertheless, on the day of the accident, while intoxicated, Mr. DeYoung took the Bravada without his wife’s permission and was then injured in the accident. Progressive ultimately sued the DeYoungs and sought a declaratory ruling that Mr. DeYoung was ineligible for no-fault benefits. Mr. DeYoung’s medical providers, Spectrum Hospital and Mary Free Bed Hospital, intervened as interested parties. While Progressive was disputing its responsibility to provide no-fault benefits to Mr. DeYoung, he filed a claim with the Assigned Claims Facility which assigned his claim to Citizens Insurance Company. Citizens intervened in the case and moved for summary disposition, along with Progressive Insurance, on the issue of whether Mr. DeYoung was ineligible for no-fault benefits under MCL 500.3113(a), which specifically states that a person is disqualified from receiving no-fault benefits if, “the person was using a motor vehicle or motorcycle which he or she had taken unlawfully, unless the person reasonably believed that he or she was entitled to take and use the vehicle.” The trial court ultimately granted summary disposition in favor of Progressive and Citizens, finding that Mr. DeYoung was disqualified from no-fault benefits under MCL 500.3113(a).
The Court of Appeals ultimately reversed the trial court on the basis that the trial court failed to apply the well-established precedent regarding the “family joyriding exception” to MCL 500.3113(a). In this regard, the court explained that in Priesman, the Supreme Court first created the “family joyriding exception” in the context of an under-aged child joyriding in his parents’ vehicle. The further explained that following Priesman, Michigan appellate courts expanded the “family joyriding exception” to apply to virtually all situations involving family joyriding. Specifically, in Butterworth Hosp v Farm Bureau Ins Co, 225 Mich App 244 (1997), the Michigan Court of Appeals applied the “family joyriding exception” in a situation when an adult was joyriding in his parents’ vehicle. Moreover, the decision in Butterworth was applied in a more recent Court of Appeals published decision in Roberts v Titan Ins Co, 282 Mich App 339 (2009). The court noted while Roberts involved a 12-year-old driver who became intoxicated and took his mother’s vehicle, the decision in Roberts did not focus on these facts in determining the injured person was not disqualified from no-fault benefits under the “family joyriding exception.” Rather, the court in Roberts focused on the fact that the exception applies in situations where a person is joyriding in another family member’s vehicle with no intent to steal the vehicle.
Because of the precedent establishing a broad application of the “family joyriding exception” the Court of Appeals in this case ultimately determined that the trial court erred by determining that Mr. DeYoung was ineligible for no-fault benefits. However, the Court of Appeals made it explicitly clear that it disagreed with this precedent and recommended that the matter should be reviewed by the Michigan Supreme Court. In this regard, the court specifically stated:
“We are acutely aware that the family ‘joyriding exception’ first enunciated by a plurality in Priesman, has no basis in MCL 500.3113(a) and, were we writing on a clean slate, we would not adopt such an exception for the reasons stated by Justice Griffin in Priesman, as well as Justices Corrigan, Young, and Markman in Roberts v Titan Ins Co, 485 Mich 935 (2009). However, we are bound to apply the judicially created ‘joyriding exception’ utilized by this Court in Butterworth, 225 Mich App 244 (1997), Allen, 268 Mich App 342 (2005), and Roberts, 282 Mich App 239 (2009). . . . [W]hether this exception should have any continuing validity in our jurisprudence is squarely a matter left to our Supreme Court.”