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Mester v State Farm Mutual Ins Co; (COA-PUB, 4/9/1999; RB #2050)


Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket No. 205442; Published   
Judges Fitzgerald, Holbrook, Jr., and O'Connell; Unanimous   
Official Michigan Reporter Citation:  235 Mich App 84; Link to Opinion alt    

Disqualification for Unlawful Taking and Use of a Vehicle [§3113(a)]

Not Applicable    

In this unanimous published Opinion by Judge Fitzgerald, the Court of Appeals held that the provisions of section 3113(a) would preclude PIP benefits to a 12-year old girl who participated in the unlawful taking of a motor vehicle which was then subsequently involved in an accident.  

Twelve year old Jessica Mester skipped school with two (2) other girls, including 14-year old Amanda Smith. They found a vehicle with keys in it, and Amanda drove away with Jessica as a passenger. They drove from Cass City to the Upper Peninsula, and upon their return, were involved in a rollover collision with Amanda at the wheel and Jessica as a passenger.   

When a claim for PIP benefits was filed on Jessica's behalf by her mother, State Farm, the insurer of her mother's vehicle, moved for summary disposition under section 3113(a) which provides that a person is not entitled to be paid personal protection insurance benefits for accidental bodily injuries if, at the time of the accident, "the person was using a motor vehicle or motorcycle which he or she had taken unlawfully."   

In this case, the court found that section 3113(a) was satisfied and there was no question that Jessica participated in the unlawful taking of the truck without permission, and without any reason to believe that she was entitled to take or use the truck. The court rejected plaintiff’s argument that Jessica merely was involved in the unlawful “use” of the vehicle, not its taking. The court further refused to extend the ruling in Priesman v Meridian Mutual Insurance Company, 441 Mich 60 (1992) (Item No. 1571), which had adopted a “family member joyriding exception” to section 3113(a). The court declined to extend Priesman to apply to anyone who is merely joyriding. The court stated that the joyriding exception adopted in Priesman was because of special considerations attendant to the joyriding use of a family vehicle by a family member. Those considerations do not warrant expansion of the exception beyond the family context.

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