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Fuller v. GEICO Indem. Co.

Court of Appeals of Michigan

March 5, 2015

GREGORY M. FULLER and PATRICE FULLER, Plaintiffs-Appellants,

Wayne Circuit Court. LC No. 12-014065-NF.



Page 505

[309 Mich.App. 496] Gleicher, P.J.

Nonparty Saundra House rented a vehicle from Lakeside Car Rental while her own vehicle was undergoing routine repairs. She allowed a family friend, plaintiff Gregory Fuller, to drive the rented car, and he was involved in an accident. Gregory and his passenger, plaintiff Patrice

Page 506

Fuller, were both injured and believed they were entitled to first-party personal protection insurance (PIP) benefits. As neither owned a vehicle or was covered under a relative's policy, the Fullers sought PIP benefits from the GEICO insurance policy that House had purchased to cover her personal vehicle. Defendant GEICO Indemnity Company determined that Lakeside owned the rental car, and therefore, that Lakeside's insurer was responsible for coverage.

The circuit court agreed with GEICO's position and dismissed the Fullers' first-party no-fault action. MCL 500.3101(1) demands that a vehicle's owner or registrant maintain the insurance coverage required by the no-fault act. And our Supreme Court has ruled that a rental agency, as the owner of the vehicle, cannot shift the burden of maintaining mandatory no-fault insurance onto a short-term renter. Accordingly, we affirm.


As noted, while House's GEICO-covered personal vehicle was in the shop for repairs, she entered a [309 Mich.App. 497] one-week rental contract for a 2008 Chevy Impala with Lakeside. The rental agreement provided that House's GEICO policy would " be first in priority in payment of any and all personal injury and property damage claims that arise from the [use] of this vehicle." After the Fullers' accident, they filed a claim for first-party no-fault benefits with GEICO. GEICO rejected the Fullers' claim, and they filed suit seeking a declaration of coverage and a ruling that GEICO had violated the no-fault statute.

GEICO sought summary dismissal of the Fullers' claims. The circuit court, based on the incorrect assumption that House had entered a long-term rental contract, initially determined that House was required to insure the rental vehicle and that the Fullers were eligible for coverage under the GEICO policy. After further clarification by the parties, however, the court determined that Lakeside remained liable to insure the Impala and its policy was the proper source of PIP benefits for the injured Fullers. The court therefore dismissed the Fullers' action and they filed this appeal.


We review de novo a trial court's decision on a motion for summary disposition. Maiden v Rozwood, 461 Mich. 109, 118; 597 N.W.2d 817 (1999). A motion for summary disposition pursuant to MCR 2.116(C)(10) tests the factual sufficiency of the complaint. Corley v Detroit Bd of Ed, 470 Mich. 274, 278; 681 N.W.2d 342 (2004). We must review a " motion brought under MCR 2.116(C)(10) by considering the pleadings, admissions, and other evidence submitted by the parties in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party." Latham v Barton Malow Co, 480 Mich. 105, 111; 746 N.W.2d 868 (2008). " There is a genuine issue of material fact when reasonable minds could differ on an issue after viewing the record in the light most favorable [309 Mich.App. 498] to the nonmoving party." Allison v AEW Capital Mgt, LLP, 481 Mich. 419, 425; 751 N.W.2d 8 (2008).
We also review de novo matters of statutory interpretation. Stanton v Battle Creek, 466 Mich. 611, 614; 647 N.W.2d 508 (2002). The goal of statutory interpretation is to discern and give effect to the intent of the Legislature. Odom v Wayne Co, 482 Mich. 459, 467; 760 N.W.2d 217 (2008). To that end, the first step in determining legislative intent is the language of the statute. Id. If the statutory language is unambiguous, then the Legislature's intent is clear and judicial construction is neither necessary

Page 507

nor permitted. Id. [ Barclae v Zarb, 300 Mich.App. 455, 466-467; 834 N.W.2d 100 (2013).]

We review de novo questions of contract interpretation and considerations regarding the legal effect of a contractual provision. Alpha Capital Mgt, Inc v Rentenbach, 287 Mich.App. 589, 611; 792 N.W.2d 344 (2010). Because a no-fault insurance policy is a contract, the general rules of contract interpretation apply. Rory v Continental Ins Co, 473 Mich. 457, 461; 703 N.W.2d 23 (2005). When considering the meaning of policy terms, we must read the whole instrument with the goal of enforcing the parties' intent. Fresard v Mich. Millers Mut Ins Co, 414 Mich. 686, 694; 327 N.W.2d 286 (1982) (opinion by Fitzgerald, C.J.). Clear and unambiguous ...

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