Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket No. 110781; Unpublished
Judges MacKenzie, Weaver, and Reilly; Unanimous; Per Curiam
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: Not Applicable; Link to Opinion
Compulsory Insurance Requirements for Owners or Registrants of Motor Vehicles Required to Be Registered [§3101(1)]
Obligation of Non-Resident Owner/Registrant to Insure a Vehicle [§3102(1)]
12% Interest Penalty on Overdue Benefits – Nature and Scope [§3142(2), (3)]
Requirement That Benefits Were Unreasonably Delayed or Denied [§3148(1)]
Bona Fide Factual Uncertainty / Statutory Construction Defense [§3148]
In this per curiam Opinion, the Court of Appeals held that the non-resident owner of a vehicle registered in a foreign state that was operated by a Michigan resident in the state of Ohio at the time of an accident, must come forward with some evidence in support of its defense that the foreign vehicle was not required to be insured under Michigan's No-Fault Act, because it was not operated in Michigan for an aggregate of more than 30 days in any calendar year. In this particular case, the plaintiff was an employee of the non-resident vehicle owner. In defense of plaintiffs lawsuit for no-fault first party benefits, the defendant asserted the conclusory allegation that the vehicle was not required to be insured under the Michigan no-fault law for the reason that it was not operated in Michigan for more than 30 days. However, the defendant offered no evidence in support of this defense at the time plaintiff filed a motion for summary disposition. The defendant's failure to come forward with some evidence in opposition to plaintiffs motion for summary disposition, permitted the trial court to properly enter summary disposition in favor of plaintiff.
The court also held that plaintiff was entitled to recover no-fault interest under §3142 regardless of whether the defendant was guilty of bad faith in payment of no-fault benefits. The court stated:
"Regardless of the good faith with which defendant denied liability, once it received reasonable proof of plaintiff s injury and losses, it was liable for the statutory interest on overdue benefits."
The court also affirmed an award of attorney fees under §3148 and held:
"The trial court could properly conclude, from defendant's lack of evidence, that no bona fide factual uncertainty was demonstrated and that the delay in making benefit payments was unreasonable."
Judge Reilly concurred in the result. She would hold that:
"Once the plaintiff-appellee provided uncontroverted evidence that the vehicle involved in the accident was owned by a non-resident and not registered in Michigan, the burden of proof shifted to the defendant-appellant to show registration was not required under the Michigan No-Fault Act."
"Section 3102 must be interpreted to impose the burden on the non-resident owner or registrant of the vehicle which is not registered in Michigan to maintain records to support the claim that the vehicle had not been operated in Michigan for more than 30 days in the previous calendar year."