Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket No. 13 8572; Unpublished
Judges Neff, Marilyn Kelly, and White; Unanimous; Per Curiam
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: Not Applicable; Link to Opinion
Liability Policy Exclusions for Owned and Non-Owned Vehicles [§3131]
Motor Vehicle Code (Definition of Owner) (MCL 257.37) (MCL 257.401a)
Motor Vehicle Code (Registration and Title Requirements) (MCL 257.201, et seq.)
Private Contract (Meaning and Intent)
In this unanimous per curiam unpublished Opinion, the Court of Appeals addressed the interpretation of an exclusion of residual liability coverage for "other vehicles owned by the insured" and held that within the meaning of the policy's exclusion, "owner" means a person whose name appears on the vehicle's title.
Marvin Carter, while driving a 1984 Plymouth Duster, struck and killed a 6-year old. The 1984 Duster was titled in the names of David Carter and Michelle Carter. At the time of the accident, Michelle Carter also owned a 1986 Dodge Daytona which was insured through defendant AAA. Coverage for the loss was provided through League General Insurance Company which had the policy of insurance on the 1984 Duster which was involved in the accident. AAA refused to provide additional coverage under its policy on the 1986 Dodge Daytona which was not involved in the accident. The basis for its denial of additional coverage was an exclusion in the AAA policy which provided that coverage was excluded for other vehicles owned by the insured or a relative residing in the same household. Michelle Carter claimed that she was not an owner of the 1984 Duster which was involved in the accident and therefore, the coverage on her 1986 Dodge Daytona should be applicable. Michelle Carter contended that even though her name appears on the title and registration as co-owner, she had sold her interest in the Duster to her father, David, three years previously, but the title had not been changed to reflect this transfer. Michelle Carter claimed that since David Carter maintained and insured the Duster and was the only person with exclusive use of the Duster for a period exceeding 30 days, he was the sole owner of the vehicle, despite the fact that the title clearly showed Michelle Carter as a co-owner.
In denying coverage under the AAA policy, the Court of Appeals looked to the provisions of MCLA 257.37 of the Michigan Vehicle Code which defines owner as a person who holds the legal title of a vehicle. The Court of Appeals rejected the argument of Michelle Carter that she was not really an owner because her father had the exclusive use of the vehicle for more than 30 days. The clear statutory language indicates that strict compliance with the provisions of MCLA 257.233(4) requires specific procedures to be followed in order to transfer a certificate of title. Since Michelle Carter had failed to effectuate proper transfer of the title under the statute, she remained an owner of the accident vehicle for purposes of the Michigan Vehicle Code and her insurance policy with defendant Since she was an owner of the accident vehicle, she was not entitled to coverage under AAA policy providing coverage on another vehicle.