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Fenton v Farm Bureau General Insurance Company; (COA-UNP, 3/31/2009, RB #3053)


Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket #279673; Unpublished
Judges Zahra, Cavanagh, and Meter; unanimous; per curiam
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: Not applicable, Link to Opinion courthouse graphic

Compulsory Insurance Requirements for Owners or Registrants of Motor Vehicles Required to Be Registered [3101(1)]
Definition of Owner [3101(2)(h)]
Disqualification for Uninsured Owners or Registrants of Involved Motor Vehicles or Motorcycles [3113(b)]


Not applicable

In this unanimous unpublished per curiam opinion, the Court of Appeals reversed summary disposition for defendant Farm Bureau in this action for personal injury protection benefits, finding that even though plaintiff was an owner of the vehicle in which he was injured under MCL 500.3101(2)(g), but had not obtained his own insurance policy for the vehicle, he was not precluded from benefits under MCL 500.3113, because the vehicle was insured through Farm Bureau by the titled owner.

The plaintiff in this case was injured when the vehicle in which he was driving was hit by a train. Farm Bureau refused to provide PIP benefits because he was the owner of the vehicle but had not obtained insurance for it as required by MCL 500.3101(1). The trial court agreed, and granted Farm Bureau’s motion for summary disposition.

In reversing, the Court of Appeals first noted that plaintiff was indeed an owner of the vehicle because he had possessory use of the vehicle and planned to formally purchase the vehicle within 30 days from his sister, the titled owner. However, the court found that under Iqbal v Bristol West Insurance Group, 278 Mich App 31; 748 NW2d 574 (2008), reversal was warranted. In Iqbal, the court held that if one owner obtains insurance on a vehicle, and if another uninsured owner is in an accident in the vehicle, the uninsured owner will not be excluded from benefits. Therefore, the court determined that because plaintiff’s sister maintained a no-fault policy on the vehicle as required by §3101(1), plaintiff was not excluded from benefits under §3113(b). In this regard the court stated:

We first note that plaintiff was indeed an ‘owner’ of the vehicle in question. . . .  In the instant case, plaintiff had possessory use, as opposed to incidental use, of the Oldsmobile. Fenton did not drive the Oldsmobile or limit plaintiff’s use of it. Instead, plaintiff paid for the Oldsmobile to be repaired and used it at his discretion to travel between Traverse City and Detroit for work. It is unclear from the record how long plaintiff had possessory use of the Oldsmobile. Nevertheless, Fenton and plaintiff contemplated that the right to use the vehicle would remain in effect for more than 30 days. Although the parties did not exchange the title, plaintiff took immediate and primary possession of the vehicle after it was repaired. Moreover, according to their purchase agreement, they planned to complete the sale within 30 days. Therefore, because plaintiff’s contemplated right to use the Oldsmobile was possessory and would have remained in effect for more than 30 days, we conclude that plaintiff was an owner under MCL 500.3101(2)(h)(i).”

Michigan auto accident attorney Stephen Sinas is the lead editor of the appellate case summaries published on this site regarding the Michigan auto insurance law. To learn more about how Stephen Sinas and how the Sinas Dramis Law Firm can help you if you have been injured in a Michigan auto accident, visit

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