Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket #359313; Unpublished
Judges Cavanagh, O’Brien, and Rick; Per Curiam
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: Not Applicable; Link to Opinion
In this unanimous, unpublished, per curiam decision, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s summary disposition order dismissing Plaintiff Joseph Davis, Sr.’s action for no-fault PIP benefits against Defendants MetLife Insurance Company (“MetLife”) and the Michigan Automobile Insurance Placement Facility (“MAIPF”). The Court of Appeals held that there was no question of fact that Davis had taken the vehicle he was operating at the time of the accident “unlawfully” for purposes of MCL 500.3113(a), and that he was therefore barred from recovering PIP benefits under the vehicle’s owner’s No-Fault policy with MetLife. The Court of Appeals further held that because Davis was barred from recovering PIP benefits under the MetLife policy by MCL 500.3113(a), he was also barred from recovering PIP benefits from the MAIPF by MCL 500.3173.
Joseph Davis, Sr. was injured in a motor vehicle accident while driving a vehicle owned by his girlfriend, Regina Edwards. At the time of the accident, Davis did not have a driver’s license, but he stated during an examination under oath that he still drove Edwards’s vehicle approximately once per week. He also testified that on the day of the accident, he became impatient waiting for Edwards to return home to drive him to the store, so he simply took the keys from a table in Edward’s house and ‘went to do what [he] had to do.’ Davis went on to admit that an argument broke out between he and Edwards when she discovered that he had taken the vehicle, and, when asked whether he had Edwards’ permission to operate the vehicle at the time of the accident, Davis answered, “No, not that day I didn’t.”
Davis filed a claim for PIP benefits with MetLife, Edwards’s insurer, after the accident, but MetLife denied the claim, asserting that Davis was barred from PIP benefits by MCL 500.3113(a)—because he had taken Edwards’s vehicle unlawfully. Edwards then filed a claim with the MAIPF, but the MAIPF declined to assign her claim, asserting that, because he was barred from PIP benefits from MetLife by MCL 500.3113(a), he was also barred from PIP benefits through the MAIPF by MCL 500.3173. Davis proceeded to file suit against MetLife and the MAIPF, and the trial court granted summary disposition as to both defendants.
The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s summary disposition order, holding that there was no question of fact as to whether Davis took Edwards’s vehicle unlawfully. In order to establish an unlawful taking under MCL 500.3113(a), the Court noted that Davis must have “(1) willingly operated or used Edwards’s vehicle, (2) taken Edwards’s vehicle unlawfully, and (3) known or should have known that Edwards’s vehicle was taken unlawfully.” In this case, there was no dispute among the parties as to the first element, and, given Davis’s own admission that he did not have permission to take the vehicle on the day of the accident, no question of fact regarding the second and third elements. Thus, Davis was barred from PIP benefits from MetLife by MCL 500.3113(a).
We agree with the trial court that there was no question of fact that plaintiff Davis’s taking of Edwards’s vehicle was without authority. Plaintiff Davis took the keys to Edwards’s vehicle and drove off. When asked whether he had permission to operate Edwards’s vehicle at the time of the accident, plaintiff Davis stated, ‘No, not that day I didn’t.’ There is nothing in the record to support that plaintiff Davis had permission to take and use the vehicle, and reasonable minds could not differ that his taking of the vehicle on the night of the accident was without authority and was, therefore, an unlawful taking.
The third element of MCL 500.3113(a) requires looking at plaintiff Davis’s state of mind and whether he ‘knew or should have known’ that the vehicle was taken without authority. Under the facts of this case, no reasonable juror could conclude that plaintiff Davis did not know that he took the vehicle without authority. By his own statement, plaintiff Davis did not have permission to take the vehicle, and so he knew that his taking of the vehicle was unauthorized. Reasonable minds could not disagree that plaintiff Davis knew or should have known that he was using the vehicle unlawfully—since he was the one who knowingly took it without authorization, and so the requirement in MCL 500.3113(a) that ‘the person knew or should have known that the motor vehicle . . . was taken unlawfully’ is satisfied.
The Court then held that, because Davis was barred from PIP benefits from MetLife by MCL 500.3113(a), he was also barred from PIP benefits from the MAIPF under MCL 500.3173, which provides that
“A person who because of a limitation or exclusion in sections 3105 to 3116 is disqualified from receiving personal protection insurance benefits under a policy otherwise applying to his accidental bodily injury is also disqualified from receiving benefits under the assigned claims plan.”