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Husband is not an "owner" of wife's uninsured vehicle where there is no evidence of 30 days' use

Kevin Zoerman was injured while driving his wife's uninsured car.  Titan Insurance was assigned to pay his Personal Injury Protection (PIP) medical expenses, but declined to pay, arguing that Zoerman was an "owner" of the car, even though his name did not appear on the title.  The owner-operator of an uninsured vehicle is not allowed to collect PIP benefits---because he or she hasn't complied with the law and paid for PIP coverage on the car.

The lower court threw out Titan's claim, however, when it failed to present any evidence that Zoerman was an owner of the vehicle.  To be an owner, the individual must be a registered owner (appearing on the title or registration) or enjoy the regular use of the vehicle for 30 days.  In the instant case, at trial Titan presented no evidence to support its claim that Kevin enjoyed the right to operate this vehicle on demand.  The testimony indicated Kevin's wife bought the car without his knowledge, that she maintained it, and that she possessed the only keys.  The Zoerman's claimed that Kevin used the vehicle infrequently and that his wife retained the right to grant permissive use.  Under these facts, Titan had not created a question of fact with regard to whether Kevin was an "owner" on the alternative statutory basis (by reason of enjoying the right to exercise regular use for 30 days).

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
309 East Front Street
Traverse City, Michigan 49684
Toll Free: 1-800-678-1307
Fax: 231-929-7262