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Court reverses trial judge; orders State Farm to pay long haul driver's PIP benefits

Deborah Lashbrook and her husband were long-haul truck drivers.  Deborah owned a Peterbuilt tractor that she and her husband drove on weekly interstate trips until she was hurt in a single-vehicle collision in Indiana.  At the time, the tractor was leased to another corporation and operated through her corporate entity, M & J Express.  She insured the tractor with a bob-tail policy through Owner-Operator Services. She insured her 1993 Ford Ranger pick-up with State Farm.

After she was hurt, Owner-Operator Services denied Deborah's PIP claim, and also through the lessee's PIP insurer, Northfield Trucking.  When both denied her PIP benefits, Deborah made a timely demand for PIP benefits to State Farm.  State Farm argued that it did not owe PIP benefits because Deborah owned the tractor and had failed to purchase complete PIP coverage.  The trial judge granted summary disposition, but the higher court reversed.  It held that State Farm's interpretation of the policy did not satisfy the requirements of Michigan's No Fault Act, and that State Farm had not proved that Deborah was a disqualified "owner" of the [leased] vehicle.

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