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June 18, 2019
In the recent unpublished decision of Ellis v USAA General Indemnity Co, the Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed that a party that moves to Michigan but fails to properly register their vehicle in Michigan and obtain a Michigan policy of No-Fault PIP insurance is not entitled to recovery of said benefits.
Plaintiff Ellis purchased a Dodge Charger while stationed at Fort Drum, New York, as part of his military service. He subsequently registered the vehicle in New York and obtained a New York policy of automobile insurance with USAA. When discharged from the military in July of 2014, Ellis moved to Michigan. However, he did not change his vehicle registration from New York to Michigan, or change his insurance policy from a New York automobile policy to a Michigan no-fault policy. He did change his mailing address, at which point USAA requested confirmation of his vehicle location. But Ellis did not comply with that request, and USAA continued to send renewal documents for the New York policy to Ellis’ Michigan address. Thereafter, in March 2016, Ellis was involved in a motor vehicle accident.
Ellis filed the present appeal after the trial court dismissed his Complaint on the basis that he did not maintain a Michigan no-fault insurance policy. The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s decision on the basis that Ellis, a Michigan resident, failed to maintain the insurance mandated by the No-Fault Act (MCL 500.3101(1)). Ellis argued that USAA should have known that he was a Michigan resident based on Ellis’ having notified USAA of his change of mailing address, and therefore, should have issued Ellis a Michigan policy of insurance. The Court of Appeals rejected this argument, finding that USAA did not violate the No-Fault Act because it appropriately provided a New York policy of insurance to Plaintiff while he lived in New York, and because Ellis should have known that his policy did not provide Michigan coverage. Moreover, the Court noted that Ellis failed to comply with the provisions of his New York policy by failing to coordinate the surrender of his New York license plate and for failing to obtain appropriate insurance and registration in Michigan. The Court of Appeals declined to reform the policy at issue to a Michigan policy on the basis of mutual mistake, as Ellis failed to demonstrate that the mistake was, in fact, mutual.
In issuing its Opinion, the Court of Appeals provided guidance as to the roles of each party in complying with the No-Fault Act by placing the burden on the insured to provide accurate information as to the garaging location of the vehicle.
Please direct any questions to Christian Huffman, Editor Pro Tempore of the Law Fax Publication and a Shareholder in our Detroit Office. He can be reached at 313.446.5549 or firstname.lastname@example.org