Home Owners Insurance wins summary disposition and avoids paying PIP benefits on covered car
Jeffrey Carson was hurt in a Nevada car accident. He was driving the 2006 Lexus his mother loaned him. Ms. Carson had kept insurance on the vehicle with Home Owners, but in order to comply with Nevada law and register the vehicle, the son had to prove he bought insurance in Nevada. In order to buy insurance in Nevada, he asked his mother to send him the title, which he registered with himself as "owner" and his mother as "lienholder." She remained the registered owner in Michigan.
When the son applied for No Fault PIP benefits, Home Owners refused to pay, even though Mrs. Carson had continued to pay the premium on the coverage. Home Owners argued that the insurance wasn't valid because it only owed "statutorily required benefits"--not the benefits described in the policy-and since Michigan law did not require the Carsons to register the vehicle in Michigan, no "statutorily required benefits" were due. The trial judge rejected Home Owners' motion for summary disposition, and Home Owners appealed.
The Court of Appeals ruled that Home Owners was entitled to summary disposition because Mrs. Carson was not an "owner" under Michigan law, even though the statute defines an owner very broadly and states that a "certificate of title shall remain valid until canceled by the [Michigan] secretary of state or until transfer of an interest shown on the certificate of title." The Court held that the parties could not claim that the vehicle was "borrowed" or "loaned" given the boy's description of the transaction on Nevada records.
No one discussed whether Home Owners should pay the Carsons back the premiums they paid for many months, for coverage that they ultimately didn't get.