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Woman signed off on title, canceled coverage, but still owned car; her insurer mus pay PIP benefits

In a fairly unique set of circumstances, Genevieve Schumacher's failure to complete the transfer of her vehicle led to her insurer paying PIP benefits to an accident victim.  Schumacher intended to sell the car to her daughter's boyfriend, Jeremy Qualls, and "signed off" on the title.  She did not secure his signature on the title, however, or even write his name in.  She also did not confirm a change in the registration with the Secretary of State or remove her license plate. 

Qualls drove the car for a little over a month, but when he and Schumacher's daughter broke up, and the latter learned that he had not completed the vehicle transfer, Schumacher took the car back.  It needed repairs and Qualls apparently no longer wanted it; he maintained that he never intended to own it.  Schumacher engaged a friend to drive the car to a mechanic for repairs, but he was injured en route in a collision. 

The injured driver sought coverage through Secura, Schumacher's insurance on another vehicle, but Secura pointed to the cancellation of coverage on the subject vehicle and the injured man applied to the Assigned Claims Facility.  Citizens paid PIP benefits through the latter, but sued Secura for reimbursement.  Citizens argued that Schumacher remained the owner of the vehicle (or resumed ownership, if the facts are interpreted differently) and therefore her insurer was highest in priority for PIP benefits.  On appeal, the Court of Appeals referred to several binding precedents and ruled that Secura, as the insurer of the "owner or registrant" was, indeed, responsible to pay PIP benefits.

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