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Ellis v. Bello, et al. (COA – UNP 6/11/2019; RB #3925)

Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket # 342770; Unpublished
Judges Sawyer, O’Brien, and Letica; per curiam
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: Not Applicable; Link to Opinion

Compulsory Insurance Requirements for Owners or Registrants of Motor Vehicle Required to Be Registered [§3101(1)]
General/Miscellaneous [§3102]

Not Applicable


In this unanimous unpublished per curiam decision, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s summary disposition order dismissing both the plaintiff’s first-party action to recover no-fault PIP benefits and his third-party negligence action.  The plaintiff purchased and insured his vehicle in New York, but moved to Michigan and became a Michigan resident shortly thereafter.  At no point did the plaintiff register his vehicle in Michigan or obtain an insurance policy that complied with Michigan’s no-fault act, as is required by MCL 500.3101.  Therefore, the trial court properly concluded that the plaintiff’s complaint was barred.

Donald R. Ellis, purchased and registered a vehicle in New York, while he, himself, was a New York resident, and insured the vehicle through a policy with USAA.  Shortly thereafter, Ellis moved from New York to Michigan, became a Michigan resident, and was involved in a motor vehicle collision.  Ellis filed a first-party action to recover no-fault PIP benefits against USAA, as well as a third-party negligence action against the other driver involved in the collision.  The trial court granted summary disposition for both defendants because Ellis failed to obtain a Michigan no-fault insurance policy prior to the collision.

On appeal, the Court first rejected Ellis’ argument that USAA knew that the plaintiff was a Michigan resident, and was therefore obligated to provide him with an insurance policy that complied with the Michigan no-fault act.  The Court pointed out that when Ellis obtained his insurance policy from USAA, his vehicle was registered in New York and he was still a New York resident.

In this case, USAA provided plaintiff with a New York insurance policy, covering a New York registered vehicle, while plaintiff was a New York resident. An insurance provider violates MCL 500.3012 when the insurance provider knew or should have known that an insured was a Michigan resident or when the insurance policy purports to comply with the Michigan no-faultact, yet issues a policy failing to satisfy the minimum requirements of the no-fault act. Id. at 42 (“Simply put, the Indiana insurance policy issued by Allstate in this case was not issued ‘in violation of’ the no-fault act because Allstate neither purported to issue a policy that complied with Michigan’s no-fault act nor knew that it was dealing with a Michigan resident.”). USAA did not violate MCL 500.3012 because USAA provided a New York insurance policy while plaintiff resided in New York and sought insurance required by the laws of that state.

Secondly, the Court of Appeals rejected Ellis’ argument that USAA knew he was a Michigan resident at the time of the collision because he changed his mailing address on the policy to a Michigan address, and that, since the vehicle was principally garaged in Michigan, USAA was required to provide him with a no-fault insurance policy under MCL 500.3009(1).  The Court of Appeals rejected this argument because the declarations page on Ellis’ policy still listed a New York location as the location in which the vehicle was principally garaged.

Plaintiff argues that USAA knew he was a Michigan resident at the time of the accident because he previously changed his mailing address for the insurance policy to a Michigan address. An insured has an obligation to read his or her insurance policy and to raise any questions within a reasonable time after the policy is issued. Casey v Auto Owners Ins Co, 273 Mich App 388, 394-395; 729 NW2d 277 (2006). “Consistent with this obligation, if the insured has not read the policy, he or she is nevertheless charged with knowledge of the terms and conditions of the insurance policy.” Id. at 395. Plaintiff argues that his vehicle was principally garaged in Michigan, and under MCL 500.3009(1)2, USAA was required to provide a no-fault insurance policy. However, the renewal declaration page of plaintiff’s insurance policy states: “The Vehicle(s) described herein is principally garaged at the above address unless otherwise stated.” Underneath this statement, the declarations page says, “VEH 01 FORT DRUM NY 13602-0000.”3 Accordingly, plaintiff is charged with knowing that despite his Michigan mailing address, USAA identified plaintiff’s vehicle as principally garaged in New York. Because MCL 500.3009(1), by its plain language, only governs policies concerning “any motor vehicle registered or principally garaged in this state,” it does not apply.

Thirdly, the Court rejected Ellis’ argument that the New York insurance policy should be reformed into a Michigan no-fault compliant policy on the basis of mutual mistake.  Ellis presented no evidence that a mutual mistake was made, however—all alleged mistakes were solely his.

Plaintiff argues that the New York insurance policy should be reformed into a Michigan no-fault insurance policy on the basis of mutual mistake. “Michigan courts sitting in equity have long had the power to reform an instrument that does not express the true intent of the parties as a result of fraud, mistake, accident, or surprise.” Johnson Family Ltd Partnership v White Pine Wireless, LLC, 281 Mich App 364, 371-372; 761 NW2d 353 (2008). “To obtain reformation, a plaintiff must prove a mutual mistake of fact, or mistake on one side and fraud on the other, by clear and convincing evidence.” Casey, 273 Mich App at 398. “A unilateral mistake is not sufficient to warrant reformation.” Id. Plaintiff fails to demonstrate a material question of fact as to whether a mutual mistake was made. Although plaintiff informed USAA of his new mailing address in Michigan, plaintiff failed to take any additional steps to change the location of his vehicle with USAA, or to register his vehicle in Michigan. USAA believed that plaintiff’s vehicle was located in New York because plaintiff did not seek to alter or transfer his New York insurance policy and the vehicle remained registered in New York. Any alleged mistake was solely plaintiff’s mistake, and therefore, there is no basis to reform the insurance policy.

Lastly, the Court of Appeals rejected Ellis’ argument that the trial court erred by refusing to consider his supplemental response to USAA’s motion for summary disposition.  The Court of Appeals agreed with the trial court that that response was not timely filed and did not comply with the court rules.

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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