Insurer Secura rejected in attempt to re-write No Fault "ownership" rules for independent contractor
Matthew Shelson, a truck driver, was hurt while operating a vehicle owned by Sam Forrest and insured by Great West. He was personally insured with Secura. He was forced to sue for PIP benefits when neither insurer would acknowledge responsibility. The trial court ruled that Shelson, whom all parties agreed was an independent contractor, should collect from his own insurer, Secura, because he did not "own" the truck he was operating. Secura argued that because he had been driving the same truck for Forrest for three months, he was now the "owner" of the truck under Michigan law.
The trial judge rejected this argument, as did the Court of Appeals. The latter issued an opinion pointing out that while Shelson had been driving Forrest's truck for more than 30 days, he did not have any indicia of "ownership" or "control" and remained subject to the dictates of Forrest, the owner. Therefore, by statute and pursuant to several prior decisions, Shelson did not "own" the truck he was driving.