Where owner asked church friend to drive and insure amputee's car, daughter gets no coverage
Crystal Barnes' mother stopped driving after she became a double amputee. She asked her friend Richard Huling, "a close friend from church" to drive her to church and run errands using her car. Huling agreed and bought insurance through State Farm. Barnes used the car occasionally, also, and while using it suffered car accident injuries. When she sought PIP benefits, State Farm denied that she was insured and was granted summary disposition. She then filed a claim through the State Assigned Claims Fund. Farmers insurance was assigned to pay PIP benefits, but it argued that since the car was not insured through State Farm, it also owed no PIP benefits because Barnes qualified as an "owner" (because she had access to the car) and it was not insured for PIP benefits. The trial judge agreed and granted summary disposition.
Barnes appealed, arguing that the car was, in fact, insured by Huling, and that under existing precedent, she was entitled to PIP benefits because only one owner need purchase coverage. The Court rejected the related precedent and ruled that since State Farm only agreed to insure the "Named Insured" and not any other driver who could qualify as an "owner," the car was not insured and Barnes was ineligible for PIP benefits. Ineligible even though the church friend had paid for coverage and even though Barnes wasn't the titled owner or registrant of the vehicle. And even though prior caselaw said that only one "owner" need buy PIP insurance to cover all owners. More good work by the insurer's best friend, Henry Saad.