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Chahine v Memberselect Ins Co, et al (COA – UNP 12/16/2021; RB #4366)  

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Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket #356350; Unpublished  
Judges Sawyer, Riordan, and Redford; Per Curiam 
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: Not Applicable; Link to Opinion


STATUTORY INDEXING: 
Determination of Domicile [§3114(1)]

TOPICAL INDEXING: 
Not Applicable


SUMMARY: 
In this unanimous unpublished per curiam decision, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s summary disposition order, in which the trial court determined that Defendant Memberselect Insurance Company (“MIC”) was the highest priority insurer for payment of Plaintiff Ali Chahine’s no-fault PIP benefits.  The Court of Appeals held that Chahine was domiciled at his parents’ house in Dearborn, Michigan at the time of the subject incident, and that Chahine’s parents’ no-fault insurer, MIC, was therefore the highest priority insurer under MCL 500.3114(1).  

Ali Chahine slipped and fell while alighting from a rental car.  At the time of the incident, Chahine’s living situation was somewhat complicated.  Chahine grew up and lived in his parents’ home in Dearborn until sometime between 2007 and 2013, at which point he moved into a marital home in Canton, Michigan, with his first wife and two children.  In a 2013 Dominica visa application, he listed the Canton home as his “present address” and the Dearborn home as his “permanent address.”  In 2013, Chahine and his first wife divorced, after which he moved to Dominica for two years before returning in 2015 and moving back into his parents’ home.  In 2016, Chahine enrolled in medical school in California, where he primarily resided until 2018.  While in California, Chahine moved in with Michele Messiah and regularly drove one of her cars, which was insured under a Geico Insurance Company ("Geico") California automobile insurance policy.

Despite living and going to school in California, Chahine never intended for California to be his permanent home.  He returned to his parents’ home in Dearborn once a month to visit his children, he still received his bills and mail at his parents’ home, he was registered to vote in Michigan, he maintained a bedroom and kept some of his belongings at his parents’ home, he used his parents’ home address for loan documents, school applications, and on his Michigan driver’s license, and he was covered under his parent's no-fault insurance policy with MIC as a “resident relative.”  In 2018, after medical school, Chahine began applying for residency programs in Michigan, intending to move back to Michigan with Messiah and his child.  In December of 2018, Chahine and Messiah were married in Michigan, and the day after the wedding, Chahine was injured as he slipped and fell alighting from a rental vehicle.

After the slip-and-fall, Chahine filed the instant lawsuit against MIC and Geico, seeking a determination as to who was higher in priority for payment of his PIP benefits related to the incident.  Ultimately, the trial court granted summary disposition in Geico's favor, determining that Chahine was domiciled at his parents’ home at the time of the collision, and thus entitled to PIP benefits under the MIC policy pursuant to MCL 500.3114(1).

The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s summary disposition order, holding that most of the factors for determining one’s domicile under MCL 500.3114(1), set forth in Workman v Detroit Auto Inter-Ins Exch, 404 Mich 477 (1979) and Dairyland Ins Co v Auto-Owners Ins Co, 123 Mich App 675 (1983), weighed in favor of a finding that Chahine was domiciled at his parents’ home at the time of the incident.  

The Workman factors are as follows: 

“(1) the subjective or declared intent of the person of remaining, either permanently or for an indefinite or unlimited length of time, in the place he contends is his ‘domicile’ or ‘household’; (2) the formality or informality of the relationship between the person and the members of the household; (3) whether the place where the person lives is in the same house, within the same curtilage or upon the same premises[;] (4) the existence of another place of lodging by the person alleging ‘residence’ or ‘domicile’ in the household. [Id. at 497, quoting Workman v Detroit Auto Inter-Ins Exch, 404 Mich 477, 496-497; 274 NW2d 373 (1979).]” 

Relevant to the Court’s consideration of each of these factors were the following facts: Chahine’s subjective intent was always to return to Dearborn and never to stay in California; Chahine had an informal living situation with his parents—which, in Workman, was held to be indicative of a domicile at the plaintiff’s parents’ house; Chahine maintained his own bedroom at his parents’ house, where he kept some of his belongings; and Chahine was allowed to share his parents’ cars when returning to their home.

“Most of the Workman factors weigh in favor of plaintiff’s domicile being at his parents’ Dearborn home at the time of the accident. First, plaintiff’s subjective intent weighs heavily in favor of a Dearborn domicile because he declared numerous times that he did not consider California his permanent home and that he intended on returning to Michigan once he finished medical school. Moreover, plaintiff was applying primarily to Michigan medical residency programs, he often returned to Michigan on breaks from school to visit his children, and he returned to Michigan to marry Messiah. Plaintiff’s conduct demonstrated he intended to keep Michigan as his permanent home and that he intended to remain in California only temporarily. Second, although the record does not contain many specifics about plaintiff’s relationship with his parents, this factor weighs in favor of a Dearborn domicile because the evidence suggests he and his parents had, at a minimum, an informal relationship. See Workman, 404 Mich at 498 (explaining that the ‘informal and friendly’ relationship between a resident and homeowner favored a finding of domicile where the resident used all of the home’s facilities, ate meals with the homeowner, and entered the home as she pleased). Plaintiff’s parents not only maintained a bedroom for him at their home, but they also allowed him to keep some of his belongings there while he was in California, cooked for him, and shared their cars with him when he stayed at the home. Third, that plaintiff maintained an exclusive bedroom within his parents’ home weighs in favor of a Dearborn domicile. Fourth, although plaintiff leased a home in California with Messiah at the time of the accident, this factor also weighs in favor of a Dearborn domicile because he indicated that home was only temporary and that he intended on returning to his parents’ home, and he was applying for medical residency programs nearby. See id. (explaining that the intent not to return to one residence favored a finding of domicile at the other, preferred residence).” 

The Dairyland factors are as follows:

“[5] whether the claimant continues to use his parents’ home as his mailing address, [6] whether he maintains some possessions with his parents, [7] whether he uses his parents’ address on his driver’s license or other documents, [8] whether a room is maintained for the claimant at the parents’ home, and [9] whether the claimant is dependent upon the parents for support. [Grange, 494 Mich at 497 n 41, quoting Dairyland Ins Co v Auto-Owners Ins Co, 123 Mich App 675, 682; 333 NW2d 322 (1983).]” 

Relevant to the Court’s consideration of each of these factors were the following facts: Chahine continued to use his parents’ address as his mailing address; Chahine used his parents' address on important documents; and both Chahine and his children had their own specially designated bedrooms at Chahine’s parents’ house.

“A majority of the Dairyland factors also weigh in favor of plaintiff’s domicile being at his parents’ Dearborn home at the time of the accident. With regard to the fifth factor, plaintiff’s mailing address weighs in favor of a Dearborn domicile because plaintiff still listed his mailing address as his parents’ Dearborn home, especially for his important mail, such as bills and financial statements. With regard to the sixth factor, it is unclear whether the location of plaintiff’s possessions weighs in favor of a Dearborn or California domicile. Although plaintiff initially left most of his possessions at the Dearborn home—taking only his car and two suitcases when he first went to California—the record is unclear as to the division of possessions between the Michigan and California residences or whether he later brought any other possessions to California. As to the seventh factor, the address plaintiff listed on important documents weighs in favor of a Dearborn domicile because, despite obtaining a California driver’s license a few months before the accident, he still maintained a Michigan driver’s license that listed his parents’ home as his address. Plaintiff also listed the Dearborn address for many of his important documents, such as his medical school applications, loan documents, and visa applications. With regard to the eighth factor, plaintiff’s bedroom at the Dearborn home weighs in favor of a Dearborn domicile because he not only maintained his own exclusive room at the home, but his children also had their own room at the home when they stayed there with plaintiff. Finally, it is unclear whether the ninth factor weighs in favor of a Dearborn or California domicile because no evidence indicated whether plaintiff relied on his parents financially or otherwise when in Michigan or California.” 

Based on these two tests, the Court of Appeals held that the trial court correctly concluded that Chahine was domiciled at his parents’ house in Dearborn at the time of the subject incident.  The Court further rejected MIC’s argument that the trial court should have invoked a rebuttable presumption that a person’s domicile is that of his or her spouse, as there is “no support for this presumption in Michigan law.”


Lansing car accident lawyer Stephen Sinas is the lead editor of the appellate case summaries published on this site regarding the Michigan auto insurance law. To learn more about how Stephen Sinas and how the Sinas Dramis Law Firm can help you if you have been injured in a Michigan auto accident, visit SinasDramis.com.

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