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Priesman v Meridian Mutual Insurance Company; (COA-PUB, 5/29/1990; RB #1374)


Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket No. 109752; Published  
Judges Weaver, Brennan, and Neff; Unanimous; Per Curiam 
Official Michigan Reporter Citation:  185 Mich App 123; Link to Opinion alt 

Disqualification for Unlawful Taking and Use of a Vehicle [§3113(a)]  
General Rule of Priority [§3114(1)] 
Resident Relatives [§3114(1)]

Legislative Purpose and Intent   

In this unanimous per curiam opinion, the Court of Appeals reversed summary disposition and held that plaintiff was entitled to no-fault benefits for injuries sustained by her 14-year old son who was injured while driving her car without her permission.  

Plaintiff owned a motor vehicle which was insured by defendant Meridian. While she was asleep, her 14-year old took her car without her permission, picked up two friends, and became involved in an accident. 

Defendant initially paid first party no-fault benefits as well as a settlement of a third party claim. Six or seven months following the accident, defendant informed plaintiff that it would no longer pay first party benefits for expenses arising out of her son's injuries. Defendant relied upon §3113(a) which precludes PIP benefits for accidental bodily injury if at the time of the accident the person was using a motor vehicle which he had taken "unlawfully."  

Defendant argued that the plaintiff’s son was driving the car unlawfully in violation of MCLA 750.414, which states that any person who takes or uses without authority any motor vehicle without intent to steal the same, shall upon conviction thereof be guilty of a misdemeanor. Although there was no conviction, defendant contended that the taking without permission constitutes an unlawful act allowing defendant to deny PEP benefits.  

The Court of Appeals held that the term "unlawful" is not defined in the No-Fault Act. The case of Dupie v Michigan Mutual Insurance Company (Item No. 1134) was found distinguishable in that there was nothing in the opinion to indicate that the plaintiff was a member of the owner's household or that he was related to the owner. Under §3114, plaintiff’s son is entitled to personal protection insurance benefits because he is a relative of plaintiff domiciled in the same household. He does not lose that entitlement by virtue of using his mother's car without her permission. The use of plaintiff’s car by her son without her permission was not unlawful under the No-Fault Act. 

The trial court decision denying benefits was therefore reversed.  

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