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Dewey v. Auto Club Group Ins. Co., et al. (COA – UNP 2/20/2020; RB #4040)


Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket # 346556; Unpublished
Judges Ronayne Krause, Kelly, and Tukel; Per curiam
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: Not Applicable; Link to Opinion

Disqualification for Uninsured Owners or Registrants of Involved Motor Vehicles or Motorcycles [§3113(b)]
Disqualification for Uninsured Owners/Operators for Noneconomic Loss [§3135(2)]

Not Applicable

In this unanimous unpublished per curiam decision, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s summary disposition order dismissing the plaintiff’s first- and third-party actions.  The Court of Appeals held that the trial court did not err in determining that the plaintiff, Rachel Dewey, was precluded from bringing both actions because she was uninsured at the time of the collision.  Dewey was retrieving her phone from her own vehicle, which she had just crashed into the median minutes earlier, when another car crashed into her.  The Court of Appeals ruled that the prior crash did not “instantaneously relieve” Dewey of her obligation to maintain no-fault insurance, and that “she remained obligated to maintain no-fault insurance when the second collision occurred a few minutes later.”

Dewey was operating her vehicle intoxicated and without insurance when she lost control and crashed into the median.  Her car eventually came to rest in the middle of the highway, and Dewey was prompted by a passerby to exit the car and wait on the side of the highway.  A few minutes later, however, Dewey returned to her vehicle to retrieve her cell phone, at which point a car being driven by the defendant, Edward Earl Byron, crashed into her.  Dewey commenced suit against both Byron—for negligence and gross negligence—and Byron’s insurer, Auto Club Group Insurance Company—for no-fault PIP benefits.  Byron and Auto Club moved for summary disposition, arguing that because Dewey failed to maintain no-fault insurance at the time of the incident, she was barred from recovering PIP benefits and third-party damages.  Dewey argued, in response, that her claims arose solely out of the second collision, at which point she was neither “driving” nor “operating” her vehicle, and that she was thus she not obligated to maintain no-fault insurance at that time.  The trial court agreed with the defendants, and dismissed Dewey’s claims.

On appeal, Dewey argued firstly that she was not precluded from recovering no-fault PIP benefits by MCL 500.3113(b) because her vehicle was not being “driven or moved on a highway” at the specific moment the second collision occurred.  The Court of Appeals disagreed, noting that “merely halting the motion of a vehicle, whether for a traffic light or due to a crash, does not instantly obviate the obligation to maintain insurance.”

Rather, we conclude that the “period” in MCL 500.3101(1) refers, at least generally, to any time during which the owner, registrant, or driver of the vehicle expects and intends the vehicle to be driven or moved on a highway on demand. A vehicle is clearly not expected to be driven while undergoing repairs, Shinn, 314 Mich App at 774-775, or while placed in storage. See MEEMIC Ins Co v Michigan Millers Mut Ins, 313 Mich App 94, 96-103; 880 NW2d 327 (2015). We cannot conclude that crashing a vehicle necessarily brings that period to an immediate close.

Dewey argued secondly that MCL 500.3135(2)(c) did not bar her from bringing her tort action against Byron because she was not “operating” her vehicle at the specific moment the second collision occurred.  The Court of Appeals again disagreed, holding that its prior determination that she failed to maintain the required insurance was dispositive of this issue as well.

Plaintiff’s cursory argument is inadequate to present this issue. See Peterson Novelties, way in which insurance could be maintained in such a manner. vehicle, whether for a traffic light or due to a crash, does not instantly obviate the obligation to maintain insurance. Inc v City of Berkley, 259 Mich App 1, 14; 672 NW2d 351 (2003). In any event, her argument is irrelevant. Presuming, without deciding, that she was not “operating” her vehicle at the time of the second collision, we have already determined that she failed to maintain the required insurance. Critically, the statute requires both preconditions to be met before plaintiff can recover tort damages; and at the most, plaintiff can potentially only satisfy one. We need not consider this issue further.

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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