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Auto Club Ins Assoc v Sarate; (COA-PUB, 6/25/1999; RB #2070)


Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket No. 204893; Published   
Judges Holbrook, Jr., O'Connell, and Whitbeck; Unanimous; Per Curiam   
Official Michigan Reporter Citation:  236 Mich App 432; Link to Opinion alt   

Not Applicable

Legislative Purpose and Intent   
Motor Vehicle Code (Registration and Title Requirements) (MCL 257.201, et seq.)    

In this unanimous per curiam published Opinion, the Court of Appeals held that the fact that a title document for a motorcycle had been altered with “white out” did not automatically void the title, even the title contains the verbiage, "If any alterations or erasures are made, title is void."   

The Court of Appeals held that the instruction on the title indicating that altered titles or erasures would make the title void, does not have the force and effect of a legislative rule. The instruction expresses a position the Secretary of State's office intends to follow as it carries out its statutorily mandated responsibilities under the Motor Vehicle Code. Under the Administrative Procedures Act of 1969, a “rule” means an agency regulation, statement, standard, policy, ruling, or instruction of general applicability that implements or applies law enforced or administered by the agency, or that prescribes the organization, procedure or practice of the agency, including the amendment, suspension, or a rescission of the law enforced or administered by the agency. MCLA 24.207. However, the definition of “rule” also contains a number of exceptions including the exception for "(h) a form with instructions..."   

The Court of Appeals held that the title document with the Secretary of State instruction regarding alterations or erasures to a vehicle title does not have the force of law and is not a legislative rule. Consequently, the fact that the certificate of title in this case had a white out covering the name of a prior transferee of the motorcycle did not cause the title to be void. The Court of Appeals remanded the case for determination of whether or not the prior attempted transfer of legal title met the requirement that the transferer deliver the motorcycle and a properly signed certificate of title to the transferee.

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