Titan wins battle with State Farm over who must pay motorcyclists' medical expenses
Troy Hughes suffered catastrophic injuries in a car-motorcycle collision. He did not have medical coverage for bike injuries, but he did have auto no fault PIP coverage with Titan Insurance on a car. State Farm had insured the pickup involved in the collision, but it never confirmed that the man who insured the pickup did not actually own it: it was insured by David Curtiss, father of the registered owner, Bradley Curtiss. The driver of the pickup, Courtney Van Eck, had married Bradley five days earlier (and the parties disputed whether or not she lived in David Curtiss's home). State Farm paid the first $1,000.000.00 of PIP benefits and then stopped payments entirely, claiming that Titan was higher in priority and should be paying. Titan paid an additional $200,000.00 in benefits before suing State Farm to secure a ruling that it was higher in priority among insurers, as the insurer of the owner of the truck.
Under Michigan law, if a motorcyclist is injured in an incident involving a motor vehicle, the biker's PIP benefits are paid by the auto insurer of the owner or operator of the motor vehicle, or the owner or operator of the cycle. In this case, if Van Eck was insured under the Curtiss no fault policy, State Farm's PIP exposure would take priority over Titan's exposure as the no fault auto insurer of the owner/operator of the bike. State Farm claimed, however, that since Van Eck was not a named insured on the Curtiss policy, it did not cover her for the instant collision.
The trial court agreed with State Farm, but the appeals court reversed. It noted that State Farm had insured the vehicle at Van Eck's husband's father's request, even though he never owned it. Under the express policy language, State Farm agreed to cover any person occupying YOUR [the named insured, David's] vehicle [as identified in the policy description of vehicles insured] and did not limit its coverage to David or "Named Insureds."