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Zechlin v Bridges Motor Sales; (COA-PUB, 7/22/1991; RB #1512)


Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket No. 128055; Published  
Judges Michael Kelly, Jansen, and Brennan; Unanimous; Opinion by Judge Kelly  
Official Michigan Reporter Citation:  190 Mich App 339; Link to Opinion alt   

Not Applicable

Motor Vehicle Code (Civil Liability of Owner) (MCL 257.401)  
Motor Vehicle Code (Registration and Title Requirements) (MCL 257.201, et seq.)   

In this unanimous Opinion by Judge Kelly, the Court of Appeals held that a car dealer who applied to the Secretary of State for a transfer of title after selling a vehicle to a customer, but who did not comply with the statutory requirement of applying within 15 days after the delivery of the vehicle to transfer or secure registration plates and a certificate of registration in the name of the purchaser, did not invalidate the transfer of ownership. Therefore, when the customer was involved in an accident approximately a month after acquiring the vehicle, the customer and not the car dealership was considered to be the owner of the vehicle by virtue of the fact that the dealer had applied to the Secretary of State for a transfer of title, even though registration had not been changed to the customer's name. In this regard, the court stated:

"Under [MCLA 257.37], the vehicle's registration does not implicate ownership. It is, in most instances, the transfer of title which signifies the transfer of vehicle ownership.... In other words, dealer compliance with the registration provisions of the vehicle code is not a sine qua non for transfer of ownership. MCLA 257.233(5) provides that the effective date of transfer of title or interest in a motor vehicle is the date of execution of either the application for title or the certificate of title. Here, Bridges [car dealer] filed the application for title on September 6, 1988, several weeks prior to the accident which occurred on September 30, 1988. The trial court did not err in granting summary disposition in favor of Bridges."  

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