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Coffey v State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company II; (COA-PUB, 5/21/1990; RB #1372)


Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket No. 107166; Published  
Judges Holbrook, Jr., Brennan, and Riley; Unanimous 
Official Michigan Reporter Citation:  183 Mich App 723; Link to Opinion alt  

Compulsory Insurance Requirements for Owners or Registrants of Motor Vehicles Required to Be Registered [§3101(1)] 
Definition of Motor Vehicle (Other Motorized Devices) [§3101(2)(e)]  
Disqualification for Uninsured Owners or Registrants of Involved Motor Vehicles or Motorcycles [§3113(b)]

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

In this unanimous Opinion by Judge Riley, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court decision that plaintiff was not entitled to no-fault benefits arising from injuries sustained when he collided with a motorcycle while driving a four wheel go-cart on a public road. The trial court determined that plaintiff was not entitled to benefits because he had failed to obtain registration and insurance for that vehicle when it was driven on the highway, and was therefore precluded from receiving no-fault benefits under §3113(b). 

This case had been the subject of a previous appeal, Coffey v State Farm, 162 Mich App 264 (1987) (Item No. 1070), in which the Court of Appeals held that a go-cart, when operated on a public highway, was a motor vehicle under the No-Fault Act. On the previous appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed the trial court denial of benefits, and remanded for further proceedings in light of its conclusion that the go-cart was a motor vehicle. After remand, the defendant amended its answer and asserted the defense of §3113(b) which would preclude plaintiff from receiving no-fault benefits, if at the time of the accident, he was the owner or registrant of a motor vehicle with respect to which the security required by §3101 was not in effect.  

Plaintiff claimed that the go-cart was a toy vehicle, not designed for travel on a public highway, and, therefore, not required to be registered. Plaintiff argued that if his vehicle could not be registered, he was not required to obtain insurance. In addition, plaintiff claimed that he was entitled to the exception set forth in MCLA 257.216, which excludes from the registration requirements any vehicles driven on a highway only for the purpose of "crossing that highway from one property to another."

In rejecting these arguments, the Court of Appeals held that as a matter of law, the go-cart was subject to the registration requirements of the motor vehicle code because the go-cart was determined to be a "motor vehicle" and the evidence clearly established that it was driven on a public road. The court held that the go-cart was a motor vehicle under both the No-Fault Act, §3101(2)(c), and under the Motor Vehicle Code, MCLA 257.33.

In reaching its conclusion, the court acknowledged that the Attorney General has opined that "toy vehicles" like the go-cart in this case should not be registered. 10AG, 1959-1960, No. 3428, p 185 (September 11, 1959). Nevertheless, the court held that a motor vehicle which is operated on the highway is subject to the registration requirements, as established by MCLA 257.216. If the vehicle cannot be registered because such toy vehicles are not equipped with a variety of required safety equipment, then the vehicle should not be driven on the highway.  

The court further found that there was no factual dispute regarding the highway exception because plaintiff admitted that he was not crossing the road but was driving down the road.  

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