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Titan Ins Co v State Farm Mutual Automobile Ins Co and Progressive Marathon Ins Co (COA-UNP, 03/27/12; RB #3251)

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Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket #301978; Unpublished
Judges Murphy, Hoekstra and Murray; Non-unanimous; Per Curiam
Official Michigan Reporter Citation:  Not applicable; Link to Opinionalt; Link to Dissent


STATUTORY INDEXING:        
General Rule of Priority [§ 3114(1)]
Exception for Motorcycle Injuries [§ 3114(5)]

TOPICAL INDEXING:        
Not Applicable


In this non-unanimous 2-1 unpublished per curiam Opinion, the Michigan Court of Appeals held that under the priority provisions of § 3114(5) dealing with accidents involving a motorcycle, defendant State Farm was responsible for paying those benefits because pursuant to § 3114(5)(b) it was the insurer of the operator of the motor vehicle which was the highest level of priority under the facts of this case. 

Troy Hughes was injured while operating a motorcycle in September 2007 when it collided with a Dodge pickup truck.  The pick-up truck was owned and registered to Bradley Curtiss and operated by his wife Courtney Van Eck at the time of the accident.  The State Farm policy at issue listed Bradley’s father, David Curtiss, as the named insured on the Dodge truck.  Bradley’s father obtained and maintained the insurance policy on the truck that was issued by State Farm.  Courtney and Bradley were not covered by any other insurance policies.  At the time that the State Farm policy was issued, Bradley and Courtney lived with David at his home.  The parties disputed whether Bradley and Courtney continued to live with David on the date of the accident. 

In the trial court, Titan maintained that State Farm was the insurer of highest priority of the truck’s owner and registrant, alleging that Bradley Curtiss was a “resident relative domiciled in David Curtiss’ home.” Titan therefore claimed that under § 3114(5)(a), State Farm was the “insurer of the owner or registrant of the motor vehicle involved in the accident” and therefore obligated to provide coverage. The trial court determined that because Bradley was not residing in his father’s home and was not a resident relative under the meaning of State Farm’s policy, coverage was the responsibility of Titan.

On appeal, Titan raised a new issue that State Farm still had higher priority for coverage, this time under § 3114(5)(b) which provides that the next level of priority is with the “insurer of the operator of the motor vehicle involved in the accident.”

Titan argued that Bradley’s wife, Courtney, was operator of the vehicle and she satisfied the definition of an “insured” under the definitions contained within the State Farm policy.  The policy itself provided the definition of insured as including:

 “Any other person while occupying or injured as a pedestrian by:

      a.  your car.”

In interpreting this language, the Court of Appeals held that the State Farm policy further defined “your car” as “the vehicle or vehicles shown under your car on the Declaration Page . . . and does not include a vehicle you no longer own or lease.

The Court held this language plain and unambiguous.  Even though David Curtiss never owned the pickup truck, the vehicle was identified on the Declaration Page and therefore satisfied the definition of “your car.”  Because Courtney was “any other person occupying your car” within the definitions of the policy, State Farm was her insurer, and therefore the PIP benefits were to be paid under the provisions of § 3114(5)(b) (insurer of the operator of the vehicle involved in the accident.)

In his dissent, Judge Murray would hold that the language defining the term “your car” when it refers to a “vehicle you no longer lease or own” means that the pickup truck did not fall within this provision because David Curtiss does not currently, nor did he ever, own or lease the pickup truck.  Judge Murray would hold that the plain language of the policy means that a listed vehicle does not fall within the “your car” definition if the insured does not own or lease the vehicle at the time of the accident.


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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