July 28, 2014
In the recent unpublished opinion of Gividen v Bristol West Insurance Company and Auto Club Insurance Association v Bristol West Insurance Company, (Docket Nos. 312082, 312129, issued July 17, 2014), the Michigan Court of Appeals vacated the trial court’s judgment that a plaintiff involved in a collision while riding an off-road vehicle (ORV) and a modified Jeep was not entitled to no-fault PIP benefits where the modified Jeep was not considered a “motor vehicle” for purposes of the No-Fault Act, MCL 500.3101 et seq.
Plaintiff Steven Gividen was riding an ORV when it collided with a 1976 modified Jeep driven by Brandon Northrup, who was not a party to the lawsuit. Plaintiff was seriously and permanently injured as a result of the collision. At the time of the accident, plaintiff was not covered by a no-fault insurance policy and did not reside with a relative with a no-fault insurance policy. Northrup’s Jeep was insured by a policy of insurance issued by Bristol West Insurance Group and Home State County Mutual Insurance Company that was purchased in Texas. Plaintiff filed a claim for no-fault PIP benefits with the Assigned Claims Facility, which assigned Defendant ACIA to handle the claim. ACIA paid PIP benefits to plaintiff, and the lawsuits followed.
In Docket No. 312082, plaintiff argued that the Jeep was a “motor vehicle”, and both the trial court and the Court of Appeals disagreed. The Jeep underwent extensive modifications prior to the collision. The original metal shell of the Jeep had been removed and replaced with a fiber glass shell. The Jeep did not have doors or a rearview mirror. The wiring in the Jeep was not connected except as to the steering column, ignition, and brakes. The tires were replaced with tires that were impractical for driving on a paved road. The Court of Appeals found that the Jeep was an ORV where it had been modified to the extent that it was no longer designed for operation on a public highway, and therefore, pursuant to MCL 500.3101(2)(e), “the Jeep did not qualify as a motor vehicle under the no-fault act at the time of the accident.” As a result, plaintiff was not entitled to PIP benefits pursuant to MCL 500.3105(1).
In Docket No. 31219, Defendant Bristol West argued, and the Court of Appeals agreed, that the trial court erred when concluding that even though the Jeep was not a “motor vehicle” under Michigan’s no-fault act, plaintiff was entitled to PIP benefits from Bristol West under the language of the insurance policy at issue. The policy at issue did not define the term “motor vehicle” but rather only defined the term “your covered auto.” The Court of Appeals concluded that the policy’s definition of “your covered auto” had no relation to the term “motor vehicle” as defined in the no-fault act. The Court of Appeals held that, “[b]ecause the trial court properly determined that the Jeep was not a ‘motor vehicle’ under the no-fault act, plaintiff was not entitled to Michigan no-fault PIP benefits based on the policy definition of ‘your covered auto’.”
The Court of Appeals further disagreed with the trial court’s determination that plaintiff was entitled to no-fault PIP benefits under the “out-of-state coverage clause in the policy.” The out-of-state coverage provision provided coverage for the minimum amount of no-fault insurance required in Michigan if the insured was legally responsible for such coverage. The Court of Appeals found that, because the Jeep was not a “motor vehicle” for the purposes of the Michigan no-fault act, the collision between plaintiff and Northrup was not “an auto accident to which this policy applies,” and plaintiff was not entitled to PIP benefits under the out-of-state coverage language in the policy. Therefore, plaintiff was not entitled to Michigan no-fault PIP benefits under the out-of-state coverage provision of the policy.
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REGISTER NOW! | Basics of Michigan Automobile No-Fault Insurance Law Course
Garan Lucow Miller, P.C. is pleased again to offer this in-depth, educational course in the fall of 2014. It will be taught each Tuesday evening, beginning September 30, 2014 and running through November 25, 2014.
The course will be held at the Crowne Plaza, 925 S. Creyts Road, Lansing MI from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm.
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