Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket #358675; Unpublished
Judges Hood, Jansen, and Kelly; Per Curiam
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: Not Applicable; Link to Opinion
Determination of Domicile [§3114(1)]
In this unanimous, unpublished, per curiam decision, the Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s denial of Plaintiff Farm Bureau General Insurance Company of Michigan’s (“Farm Bureau”) motion for summary disposition, in which it sought a declaration from the trial court that Defendant State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company (“State Farm”) was the highest priority insurer with respect to David Munger’s claim for No-Fault PIP benefits. After evaluating the factors for determining a No-Fault claimant’s domicile at the time of a motor vehicle accident, set forth in Workman v Detroit Auto Inter-Ins Exchange, 404 Mich 477 (1979) and Dairyland Ins Co v Auto Owners Ins Co, 123 Mich App 675 (1983), the Court of Appeals held that a question of fact existed as to whether Munger was domiciled with his parents—State Farm’s insureds—or his girlfriend’s grandparents—Farm Bureau’s insureds—at the time of the subject accident.
David Munger was injured in a motor vehicle accident while driving a vehicle owned by Richard Wietfeldt, his girlfriend’s grandfather. At the time of the accident, Munger was uninsured and living between the Wietfeldts’ home and his parents’ home, and thus a dispute arose between the Wietfeldts’ insurer, Farm Bureau, and the Mungers’ insurer, State Farm, over who was higher in priority with respect to Munger’s claim for PIP benefits: a determination which turned on Munger’s domicile at the time of the accident. Munger testified originally that he and his girlfriend intended to live with the Wietfeldts until they could afford their own home, but he later testified that he planned to live between the two homes until he and his girlfriend could afford their own home. Munger testified that he spent approximately three to four nights at each home, and would stay wherever was closest to his construction work project the following day. His driver’s license listed his parents’ house as his address, but at the hospital after the crash, he listed the Wietfeldts’ address as his address. He received business mail at his parents’ house, but personal mail at the Wietfeldt’s house. He owned his own business and was not dependent on his parents, but he and his girlfriend did have a room designated for them at his parents’ house whenever they would stay over. Based on these facts, the trial court ultimately determined that Munger was domiciled with the Wietfeldts at the time of the accident, and granted summary disposition in State Farm’s favor.
The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s disposition order, holding that a question of fact existed as to where Munger was domiciled at the time of the accident. While the facts seemed to establish that Munger resided at both homes, the Court noted that a person “can only have one domicile.” The Court then considered the facts in light of the factors for determining domicile, set forth in Dairyland and Workman, which include the following:(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 . . . ; [and] (4) the existence of another place of lodging by the person alleging “residence” or “domicile” in the household. [Workman v Detroit Auto Inter-Ins Exchange, 404 Mich 477, 496-497; 274 NW2d 373 (1979).]
The Court determined that none of these factors weighed in favor of either location. Thus, the Court found there to be a question of fact regarding Munger’s domicile remanded for the trier of fact to determine the issue.
“On balance, the majority of these factors do not heavily favor either party. The main issue on appeal is David’s stated intent to live with his girlfriend and their son at the Wietfeldts’ house—even though that intent was temporary. Although he testified that this was his intent at the time of the accident, David also testified that their plan was to live between the Mungers’ home and the Wietfeldts’ home until they could afford their own place. The other factors, too, favor neither residence and, instead, demonstrate that there is a factual dispute regarding David’s domicile that must be resolved by the trier of fact. Accordingly, we conclude that the trial court erred when it granted summary disposition in State Farm’s favor.”