Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket #358507; Unpublished
Judges Markey, Shapiro, and Patel; Per Curiam
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: Not Applicable; Link to Opinion
Interpretation of Insurance Contracts
In this unanimous, unpublished, per curiam decision, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s summary disposition order dismissing Plaintiff Haris Alesevic’s first-party action against Defendant Acceptance Indemnity Insurance Company (“Acceptance”). The Court of Appeals held that Defendant Progressive Michigan Insurance Company (“Progressive”)—Alesevic’s no-fault insurer—was solely responsible for Alesevic’s PIP benefits related to the subject motor vehicle accident, because Alesevic’s separate bobtail policy with Acceptance did not provide no-fault coverage.
Haris Alesevic was injured in a car crash while traveling as a passenger in a vehicle driven by Russell Gordon. At the time of the crash, both Alesevic and Gordon were insured through Progressive, but Alesevic also maintained a separate bobtail policy with Acceptance, which covered only a Volvo semitruck that he owned. The certificate of insurance on the Volvo semitruck provided that all coverages provided therein would apply only to accidents involving the vehicles explicitly identified in the policy—i.e. the Volvo semitruck—but included a PIP endorsement providing for no-fault coverage in certain circumstances, none of which included crashes such as that in which Alesevic was injured. After paying certain benefits to Alesevic related to his injuries, a dispute arose between Progressive and Acceptance as to who was primarily responsible for his claim: Progressive argued that it and Acceptance were of equal priority, whereas Acceptance argued that it was not in the order of priority at all, because the bobtail policy only applied to accidents involving the Volvo semitruck. Acceptance moved for summary disposition in Alesevic’s resultant first-party action against both insurers, which the trial court granted.
The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s summary disposition order, holding, first, that Acceptance was not liable for Alesevic’s PIP claim related to the subject crash. The Court noted that the plain language of the bobtail policy “unambiguously precluded liability by Acceptance to pay PIP benefits in relation to an accident that did not involve the Volvo tractor even though plaintiff may have suffered injuries in the accident.” Moreover, the Court found that the bobtail’s PIP endorsement would only be triggered in the event of certain types of crashes, none of which included the crash in which Alesevic was injured.
“The certificate of insurance for plaintiff’s policy with Acceptance provided that it was part of the insurance agreement and that PIP coverage, among other coverages, would ‘apply only to the Specified ‘Auto’ or ‘Autos’ below.’ (Emphasis added.) And the only auto listed in the certificate of insurance was the ‘2007 Volvo Tractor.’ This language plainly and unambiguously precluded liability by Acceptance to pay PIP benefits in relation to an accident that did not involve the Volvo tractor even though plaintiff may have suffered injuries in the accident. The Acceptance insurance policy, however, also contained a Michigan PIP endorsement, which Progressive contends overrode the certificate of insurance or broadened the PIP coverage.
. . .
We do not agree with Progressive’s construction of the introductory language found in the PIP endorsement. The covered ‘auto’ was the Volvo tractor, so the PIP endorsement modified insurance in connection with the Volvo tractor, but then only in regard to coverage forms that were not applicable in this case. We note that if one of the coverage forms listed in the PIP endorsement had in fact been applicable, there would perhaps be tension between the ‘covered auto’ language and the “an auto” language in the PIP endorsement. Progressive relies on the sentence in the PIP endorsement that we quoted and emphasized above: ‘With respect to coverage provided by this endorsement, the provisions of the Coverage Form apply unless modified by the endorsement.’ But this language was simply referring to the listed coverage forms, inapplicable here, indicating that their provisions continued to govern unless the endorsement modified them. In sum, there was nothing in the PIP endorsement that negated or broadened the language in the certificate of insurance that plainly and unambiguously limited PIP coverage to injuries arising out of accidents involving the Volvo tractor.”
The Court of Appeals held, second, that the bobtail policy was not required to offer no-fault coverage to Alesevic. As the Court held in Johnson v USA Underwriters, 328 Mich App 223 (2019), ‘the no-fault act does not state that every insurer must provide mandatory coverages,’ and thus Michigan insurers can sell optional insurance coverages only. The focus of MCL 500.3101(1) is on the insured, ‘requir[ing] that any insured who intends to drive on a highway must have the mandatory coverages.’ In this case, Alesevic maintained the mandatory coverages through Progressive.
“Accordingly, Acceptance’s non-trucking insurance policy—a bobtail policy—was not required to provide PIP benefits to plaintiff. And plaintiff had existing PIP coverage through Progressive, so he was not without such coverage. Therefore, the exclusion in the PIP endorsement was enforceable.”