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Home > Blog > General > Key Legal Update: Impact of the Swoope Case on Unlicensed Drivers and Insurance Coverage

Key Legal Update: Impact of the Swoope Case on Unlicensed Drivers and Insurance Coverage

By: Kopka Pinkus Dolin



We are excited to share a significant legal update that could reshape how personal injury lawsuits involving unlicensed drivers are approached. Our firm has been closely monitoring the implications of the recent Swoope case, a landmark ruling in Michigan that has set a precedent with wide-reaching consequences in the field of motor vehicle insurance law.  Swoope v Citizens Ins Co of the Midwest, ___NW2d___; 2023 Mich. App. LEXIS 9654 (Ct App, Dec. 14, 2023).  Referencing Ahmed v Tokio Marine America Ins Co, 337 Mich App 1, 11 n 5; 972 NW2d 860 (2021), the Swoope court concluded that driving a vehicle without a valid license is categorized as an “unlawful taking.” This decision extends the interpretation beyond the conventional perception of theft or similar criminal acts to include violations of licensing laws. Thus, the court determined that a breach of MCL 257.301, which pertains to the legality of operating a vehicle without a valid driver’s license, satisfies the “unlawful taking” criteria, thereby disqualifying the plaintiff from receiving insurance coverage for PIP benefits.

In a decisive victory for Kopka Pinkus Dolin’s client, a Michigan Court recently relied upon the Swoope case and dismissed a PIP Provider action where the underlying claimant was driving without a license.  This ruling pertained to a claim involving an individual who was operating a seemingly stolen motorcycle, lacked insurance as a constructive owner, and did not possess a valid driver’s license, any of which would be a sufficient basis to bar coverage under Michigan law.  We plan to utilize this favorable decision in eight derivative and ongoing cases by filing motions for summary disposition under the principles of Res Judicata and Issue Preclusion.

The Swoope landmark decision represents a significant stride in public policy for several reasons. Primarily, it underscores the importance of adhering to legal licensing requirements, thereby promoting safer roadways. By classifying the act of driving without a valid license as an “unlawful taking,” the ruling effectively discourages unlicensed driving, a practice often associated with higher risks of accidents and non-compliance with traffic laws. Moreover, this decision aids in reducing fraudulent and unwarranted claims, which can burden the insurance system and lead to increased premiums for law-abiding policyholders. By setting clear legal precedents, it ensures that Personal Injury Protection (PIP) benefits are reserved for those who comply with the law, enhancing the overall integrity and sustainability of the insurance system. Consequently, this ruling not only protects insurance companies from exploitation but also serves the broader public interest by reinforcing lawful behavior and responsible driving practices.  This decision could have a significant impact on not only No-Fault cases in Michigan, but also No-Fault and Negligence cases in other states.  Should you have any questions or require further clarification, please feel free to reach out to our legal team.


Raed (Ray) Abboo, Esquire
Attorney & Counselor at Law
Kopka Pinkus Dolin PC
Phone: 248.324.2620
Email: RLAbboo@kopkalaw.com


Attorney Raed “Ray” Abboo is a Partner with Kopka Pinkus Dolin. Mr. Abboo is often called upon by his clients to defend against high value catastrophic level personal injury claims and has defended hundreds of personal injury cases in trial and appellate courts.  Contact Ray with questions at RLAbboo@kopkalaw.com

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