Mich. high court to hear cases of 'family joyriding'

Jessica M. Karmasek Mar. 5, 2012, 3:35pm

LANSING, Mich. (Legal Newsline) - The Michigan Supreme Court on Tuesday will consider two auto insurance cases in which individuals drove their family members' cars -- though forbidden to do so -- and injured themselves.

The question facing the state's high court is whether insurers are required to pay for medical expenses for the drivers in such an instance.

During its morning session, the Court will hear arguments in Spectrum Health Hospitals v. Farm Bureau and Progressive Marathon Insurance v. DeYoung.

In Spectrum, a car owner allowed his son's girlfriend to use his car, but forbade his son to drive the vehicle. He also warned the girlfriend not to let his son drive it.

The son, who did not have a valid driver's license, ended up borrowing the car with his girlfriend's permission and got into an accident while legally drunk.

In Progressive, a man with four drunk driving convictions was specifically excluded from his wife's auto insurance policy, and she had also forbidden him to drive her car.

Knowing this, the man still took her car without permission and crashed it while driving drunk.

In both cases, the insurers argued that the drivers, who were injured, had "taken unlawfully" in violation of Michigan's No Fault Act.

The act provides that "a person is not entitled to be paid personal protection insurance benefits for accidental bodily injury if at the time of the accident... (t)he person was using a motor vehicle or motorcycle which he or she had taken unlawfully..."

The Michigan Court of Appeals, in both cases, ruled that the "taken unlawfully" provision does not apply to such "family joyriding."

The Supreme Court will hear a dozen other cases Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday dealing with constitutional, criminal, insurance, medical malpractice, legal procedure, property taxes and tort law issues.

Oral arguments, which start at 9:30 a.m. each day, will be broadcast on Michigan Government Television.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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