Disqualification for Unlawful Taking and Use of a Vehicle (§3113(a))
In this majority unpublished per curiam decision (Shapiro, dissenting), the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s summary disposition order dismissing the plaintiff’s first-party claim for no-fault PIP benefits. In so affirming, the Court of Appeals agreed with the trial court that the plaintiff, Kiara Myers, unlawfully took possession of her mother’s rental car with the explicit understanding that she was not authorized to do so, in violation of MCL 500.3113(a).
Kiara Myers’s mother rented a vehicle from Enterprise Leasing Company of Detroit, LLC, and the rental agreement explicitly stated that only Myers’s mother was authorized to drive it. Myers testified at her deposition that she “understood that only her mother was authorized to drive the vehicle,” but took possession of the vehicle anyway after her mother granted her permission to do so. She was subsequently involved in a motor vehicle collision, and filed the instant action seeking to recover no-fault PIP benefits against Enterprise and the Michigan Assigned Claims Plan. Both defendants successfully moved for summary disposition on the grounds that Myers had taken her mother’s rental vehicle unlawfully, in light of the rental agreement’s prohibition against anyone other than her mother driving the vehicle, in violation of MCL 500.3113(a).
The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s summary disposition order in favor of the defendants, finding that Myers did, in fact, take her mother’s rental vehicle unlawfully and with the express understanding that she was not authorized to do so. The Court ruled that, per MCL 500.3113(a), Myers did in fact know that she was taking the vehicle unlawfully, evidenced by her deposition testimony.
In short, this case is not about application of the owner’s liability statute; it is about the no-fault act. The no-fault act excludes from coverage claimants that are injured after taking and using a vehicle that they know was taken unlawfully. MCL 500.3113(a). Whether a prohibition from taking a vehicle comes from a statement from a father to a son—as in Spectrum—or from a provision in a rental agreement, as in this case, plaintiff has provided no relevant authority to support the idea that a contract provision cannot serve as an express prohibition against taking a vehicle for the purposes of MCL 500.3113(a). And, to the extent that plaintiff now argues that she was unaware of the provision in the rental agreement that prohibited her from taking the vehicle, we note plaintiff’s explicit statement at her deposition that she understood that only her mother was authorized to drive the vehicle. In light of that statement, plaintiff simply cannot argue that she did not know or did not have reason to know that the taking was unlawful.
Justice Shapiro dissenting, argued that a question of fact existed as to whether Myers “knew or should have known that the motor vehicle was taken unlawfully,” as is required under MCL 500.3113(a) in order to disentitle a claimant from receiving no-fault PIP benefits. Justice Shapiro highlighted the fact that the plaintiff had received permission from her mother to use the vehicle, and that no evidence had been presented to suggest that the plaintiff ever read or was told about the terms of the rental agreement. The majority’s opinion, therefore, in Justice Shapiro’s opinion, based “wholly on a single sentence in [Myers’s] deposition,” was incorrect.