Supreme Court Clarifies Meaning of “Unlawful Taking” Under Exclusion in Michigan’s No-Fault Act for Motorcycle Accident Claims

As I had predicted in earlier posts, the Supreme Court has ruled that a motorcyclist who borrowed a stolen motorcycle, but did not know the motorcycle had been stolen, was entitled to benefits under Michigan’s No-Fault Automobile Insurance Act, and the “unlawful taking” exclusion did not apply.  The Court issued its opinion yesterday in Rambin v. Allstate.

In a published opinion, the Michigan Court of Appeals had reversed a trial court decision denying the Plaintiff insurance benefits after he was injured in a collision with an automobile and the motorcycle Plaintiff was driving.  Unbeknownst to the Plaintiff, the motorcycle was stolen.  It was loaned to him by a friend who told him he could use it for a motorcycle riding event.

The Plaintiff pursued insurance benefits from the legal owner’s insurance company.  The insurance company denied benefits on the basis of MCL 500.3113(a) the “unlawful taking” exception to the statutory requirement for personal insurance protection benefits under the No-Fault Act.

Basing its decision on the Michigan Supreme Court’s recent decisions in Spectrum v. Farm Bureau and Progressive v. DeYoung, the latter of which I had written an amicus brief for in the Michigan Supreme Court on behalf of Insurance Institute of Michigan, the Court holds that because Plaintiff did not know the motorcycle had been stolen PIP benefits should have been extended to him from the true owner’s insurance company.

MCL 500.3113(a) provides:  A person is not entitled to be paid [PIP] benefits for accidental bodily injury if at the time of the accident any of the following circumstances existed: (a) The person was using a motor vehicle or motorcycle which he or she had taken unlawfully, unless the person reasonably believed that he or she was entitled to take and use the vehicle….

In its opinion, released yesterday, the Court holds that since the evidence presented was that the plaintiff did not know the motorcycle had been stolen, he did not intend to take the vehicle without authority.  The exclusion in MCL 500.3113(a) does not apply in light of plaintiff’s belief that he had authority to take and use the motorcycle.  Therefore, the plaintiff would be entitled to personal insurance protection benefits if additional evidence did not reveal he knowingly took the motorcycle without authority.

The Court remands the case for additional evidence to determine whether the plaintiff had no knowledge about the motorcycle’s status as stolen property.

I previously wrote about this case and predicted its eventual arrival at and disposition by the Supreme Court.

Court of Appeals Decision in Rambin Places Case Squarely in Line for Supreme Court Consideration

What Does “Unlawful” Taking of Motorcycle Mean Under Michigan’s “Unlawful Taking” Exclusion of the No-Fault Act? Supreme Court to Consider

For more than a century, Lacey & Jones has distinguished itself from other law firms by maintaining a robust Appeals and Legal Research Group.  Effective appellate representation demands different skills than those required by litigation attorneys.  Our appellate attorneys are adept at analyzing the intricacies of each case from an objective and critical perspective.  From reviewing and preparing the lower court record, identifying appealable errors, and developing a strategy to raise issues that will be addressed by appellate courts, our seasoned appellate team is capable of handling the most complex appeals from the application stage to oral advocacy before the highest courts.  Our research abilities and knowledge of current issues in nearly all major subject-matter areas of the law provide our clients with efficient and immediate assistance with complex and high-exposure cases.

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During the last three decades alone, the Appeals and Legal Research Group at Lacey & Jones has been responsible for over 150 published decisions, including seminal decisions in workers’ compensation, governmental immunity, employment and labor law, civil rights law and insurance coverage.  Because of its specialized knowledge and focus on appellate law and its recognized expertise, the Appeals and Legal Research Group at Lacey & Jones has been asked to participate as amicus curiae writing briefs for the Supreme Court or as special counsel to the Michigan Attorney General and other governmental entities in some of the most significant cases in the Court of Appeals and Supreme Court.   Below are some of the recent significant cases in which Lacey & Jones, LLP’s Appeals and Legal Research Group has participated.

  • Estate of Truett v. Wayne County (Court of Appeals Docket No. 313638 (May 6, 2014)
  • Yono v. MDOT, ___ Mich. App. ___ (201_), amicus curiae brief to be filed after remand for Michigan Municipal League, et al., by Carson J. Tucker
  • Omian v. Chrysler Group, LLC, 495 Mich. 859 (2013), application filed by Carson J. Tucker, Supreme Court remand to Court of Appeals on leave granted
  • Ghanam v. John Does, 303 Mich. App. 522 (2013), application to appeal filed in Supreme Court by Carson J. Tucker
  • State Farm v. MMRMA, ___ Mich App ___ (2013), amicus curiae for Oakland County in support of MMRMA application, by Carson J. Tucker
  • Hannay v MDOT, ___ Mich ___ 201_), application granted, amicus curiae filed for Michigan Townships Association, Macomb County, Oakland County and Wayne County, et al., by Carson J. Tucker
  • Yono v. MDOT, ___ Mich ___ (201_), oral argument on application granted, amicus curiae for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne County filed by Carson J. Tucker in support of the state’s application
  • Huddleston v. Trinity Health, et al., 495 Mich. 976 (2014), oral argument on application granted, amicus curiae with Lawrence Garcia, Esq., for MDTC
  • Ashley, LLC v Pittsfield Twp., 494 Mich 875 (2013), application granted, for Pittsfield Township by Carson J. Tucker (resolved by settlement)
  • Bailey v. Schaaf, ___ Mich ___ (2013), amicus curiae for MDTC by Carson J. Tucker
  • Atkins v. SMART, 492 Mich 707 (2012), oral argument on application, Court of Appeals case reversed by opinion, Carson J. Tucker
  • Hagerty v Manistee, 493 Mich 933 (2013), amicus curiae for Michigan Municipal League, et al., by Carson J. Tucker
  • McMurtrie v Eaton Corp, 490 Mich 976 (2011)
  • Findley v DaimlerChrysler Corp., 490 Mich 928 (2011)
  • Brewer v. AD.Transport Express, Inc, 486 Mich 50 (2010)
  • Stokes v Chrysler, 481 Mich 266 (2008)
  • Brackett v Focus Hope, Inc, 482 Mich 269 (2008)
  • Rakestraw v Gen Dynamics, 469 Mich 220 (2003)

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