Court requires payment of PIP benefits for passenger in stolen car
Henry Ford Health System sued Esurance Insurance Company and Citizens Insurance in an attempt to recover the substantial medical expenses it incurred in the care of Travion Hamilton after a motor vehicle collision. Hamilton was a passenger in an admittedly stolen vehicle that had been "borrowed" by his girlfriend, the driver, several hours before she picked up Hamilton. The insurer claimed that Hamilton was ineligible for PIP benefits because he was "using" a motor vehicle without permission of the owner. [The precise language of the statute prohibits payment to persons "using a motor vehicle...which he...had taken unlawfully..."] At trial the jury agreed, even though there was no evidence that Hamilton had participated in the theft, and it denied Henry Ford's claim. On appeal, the higher court overturned the decision, since there was simply no proof that Hamilton played any role in "taking" the vehicle. The Court noted that Michigan jurisprudence demands that a statute be interpreted according to its plain meaning, and no interpretation of "taking" would extend its ineligibility to Hamilton.