Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket #359889; Published
Judges Kelly, Swartzle, and Feeney; Authored by Judge Feeney
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: Forthcoming; Link to Opinion
Interpretation of Insurance Contracts
In this unanimous, published decision authored by Judge Feeney, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s denial of both Defendant Progressive Insurance Company’s (“Progressive”) motion for summary disposition and Defendant Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company’s (“Farm Bureau”) motion for summary disposition, both of which argued that the other insurer was higher in priority for payment of Plaintiff Delisa Mapp’s no-fault PIP benefits. The Court of Appeals held, first, that the language of the subject Progressive policy could and did offer broader coverage than what is mandated by the No-Fault Act: specifically, the Court held that the policy extended PIP coverage to “resident relatives” of named insureds, not merely “domiciled relatives,” as is required by statute. The Court of Appeals held, second, that a question of fact existed as to whether Mapp’s daughter, the named insured on the subject Progressive policy, was, in fact, a “resident” in the same household as Mapp at the time of the subject motor vehicle accident.
Delisa Mapp was injured in a motor vehicle accident while traveling as a passenger in a vehicle she co-owned with her with her ex-husband, Michael. Despite being divorced, Delisa lived with Michael at the time of the accident, and the vehicle they co-owned that was involved in the accident was insured under a Progressive policy issued to Michael and Michael and Delissa’s adult daughter, DeAndrea. Michael and DeAndrea were the only named insureds on the policy, but Delisa, Michael, and DeAndrea were all identified as drivers and resident relatives.
After the accident, Delisa filed a claim for PIP benefits with Progressive, but Progressive denied the claim, noting that Delissa was neither a named insured, nor a resident relative of a named insured, on the policy. Delisa thereafter applied for PIP benefits with the Michigan Automobile Insurance Placement Facility (“MAIPF”), who assigned her claim to Farm Bureau. Farm Bureau refused to pay Delisa’s benefits as well, however—asserting that Progressive was the higher priority insurer—forcing Delisa to file a lawsuit against the two insurers. Progressive was the first to move for summary disposition on the issue of priority, after which Farm Bureau filed a countermotion for summary disposition on the issue of priority. Farm Bureau argued that the Progressive policy offered PIP coverage that was broader than what is required by the No-Fault Act: specifically, by extending PIP coverage not just to “domiciled relatives”—as is required by the Act—but also to “resident relatives.” Farm Bureau noted that under Michigan law, while a person can only have one domicile, he or she can have multiple residences, and in this case, DeAndrea resided in the home Michael and Delisa shared, even if she was domiciled at a different residence with her husband. The Court of Appeals summarized DeAndrea’s complicated living situation at the time of Delisa’s accident as follows:
“Plaintiff, Michael, and DeAndrea were all deposed during discovery. Much of the questions centered around DeAndrea’s domicile and residency. DeAndrea married in 2017, and moved out of the Burt Road home and in with her husband in a residence on Antietam in downtown Detroit. Michael testified that, ‘for the most part [the daughters] still reside there [at Burt Road]. It’s, like, their second home. They [both adult children] can come back anytime’ and ‘were never really excluded from the home’ and they were always welcome. He added that he ‘never said they had to move out or anything. As far as [his] children goes it’s always their home.’ Moreover, DeAndrea had her own room and kept some of her belongings at his house, in addition to DeAndrea’s husband’s apartment. DeAndrea still had her own key to the Burt Road house. Michael also testified that, both before and after the accident, DeAndrea would split her time between Burt Road and her husband’s apartment, staying at each for a few days at a time and that she would regularly stay overnight at the Burt Road home.
DeAndrea testified that she moved to the Antietam apartment a few months after her marriage and that she considered it her primary address, including at the time of the accident. She testified that she intended to live at the Antietam address until she and her husband moved. She considered her parents’ house to be ‘almost like a secondary place.’ She stated that she had no current intent to move back into her parents’ house, but that she could if she wanted to. She confirmed that at the time of the accident, she split her time between Burt Road and the Antietam apartment and that she would come and go as she pleased at the Burt Road home.”
Ultimately, the trial court denied both insurers’ motions for summary dispositions, ruling that while the Progressive policy did extend coverage to “resident relatives” in addition to “domiciled relatives,” there was a question of fact as to whether DeAndrea resided at her parents’ home at the time of Delisa’s accident.
The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s denial of both insurers’ motions, holding, first, that no-fault insurers can offer broader coverage than what is required by the No-Fault Act, and that in this case, the Progressive policy did offer broader coverage than what is required by the No-Fault Act. The Court observed that in Bronson Health Care Group, Inc v State Auto Prop and Cas Ins Co, 330 Mich App 338, 342 (2019), it held that ‘it is permissible for an insurance policy to provide for broader coverage than is required by statute, in which case the policy may be enforced as written.’ Turning then to the Progressive policy at issue in this case, the Court observed that under the section of the policy governing PIP coverage, the term ‘eligible injured person’ was defined as ‘a person residing in the same household as you, and related to you by blood, marriage or adoption, and includes a ward, stepchild, or foster child.’ Accordingly, if DeAndrea resided at Delisa’s home at the time of Delisa’s accident—even if she was domiciled somewhere else—Delisa would be entitled to PIP coverage under the policy for her accident.
“With these cases in mind, and having to squarely address this question in order to resolve the case before us, we conclude that a no-fault insurance policy may provide broader coverage than that mandated by the no-fault act, even with respect to a mandated coverage such as PIP benefits. That is, while a no-fault insurer must provide at the least the minimum coverage required by the statute (i.e., for relatives domiciled in a named insured’s household), it may provide coverage for a broader group of persons (e.g., for relatives residing in a named insured’s household).
The Court held second, however, that a question of fact existed as to whether DeAndrea resided with her parents at the time of Delisa’s accident—although the Court confirmed that, as a matter of law, DeAndrea was domiciled at the home she shared with her husband.
[Continued from quote, above] And that is exactly what occurred in this case. As discussed previously, ‘residence’ is a broader concept than ‘domicile,’ and although a person may only have one domicile, they may have multiple residences. Therefore, while plaintiff and DeAndrea may not be domiciled in the same household, the facts may support a conclusion that they both are residents of the same household. If so, then plaintiff is entitled to PIP benefits under the Progressive policy because she is a relative residing in the same household as a named insured, DeAndrea.”
As for Progressive’s argument on appeal—that its policy contained an “ ‘explicit limitation’ on the payment of PIP benefits to only those required by the No-Fault Act”—the Court stated that there was no such limitation. There was language which read, for instance, “TERMS OF POLICY CONFORMED TO STATUTES,” but the Court noted that “any provision that grants broader coverage does conform to the statute. It would only be if the statute prohibits broader coverage that such a policy would be nonconforming.”