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Pedestrian Hit By Car in Michigan Files Claim For Uninsured Motorist Benefits

Posted on Aug 21, 2012

In Owens v. Auto Owners Ins Co, unpublished opinion per curiam of the Court of Appeals decided August 11, 2011, (Docket No. 297590) Plaintiff, Gary Scott Owens, was standing outside a pub near a line of parked motorcycles when he, the pedestrian hit by car. He received extensive injuries from the accident.

At the time of the accident, the driver of the van that struck him was an uninsured motorist. The parties agreed for the purposes of the appeal that Plaintiff was a pedestrian that was struck by an uninsured motorist. Plaintiff lived with his mother at the time of the accident. He filed a complaint against defendant Auto Owners Insurance Company for breach of contract for failure to pay uninsured motorist (UM) benefits under his mother’s Auto Owners insurance policy as a resident relative.

Under the Auto-Owners insurance policy, uninsured-motorist coverage extends to a relative who resides with the insured and does not own an automobile. The Auto-Owners insurance policy defines an automobile as a private-passenger automobile, a truck, truck tractor, trailer, farm implement, or other land motor vehicle.

Auto Owners denied the claim because Plaintiff was the owner of a 1995 Buick Riviera at the time of the accident, which they claimed barred him from recovering uninsured-motorist benefits under the aforementioned exclusion. Plaintiff responded that the Buick Riviera should not be considered an auto-mobile for insurance-policy purposes because the Buick Riviera was an inoperable car that was only used for parts.

However, the affidavit he filed in the trial court only stated that it was “not functional” and that the car had been damaged in an accident and had never been repaired. The Court held that just because a vehicle is non-functional and in need of repairs does not mean that it is not an automobile.

In addition, the Court stated that the terms “operable” and “function” are not required under the definition of an automobile in the policy. Furthermore, at the time of the accident, plaintiff had title to the Buick Riviera. Based on these facts, the Court held that the Plaintiff was not entitled to UM benefits under the terms of the policy because he owned an automobile (Buick Riviera) at the time of the pedestrian-car accident.

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