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United Services Automobile Association v Estate of Galen McDevitt; (COA-UNP, 11/27/2012; RB #3308)

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Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket #307958; Unpublished 
Judges Servitto, Markey, and Murray; Unanimous; per curiam
Official Michigan Reporter Citation:  Not applicable; Link to Opinion:alt   


STATUTORY INDEXING:      
Residual Liability Insurance General/Miscellaneous [§3131]
Priority Rules for Payment of PIP Benefits: Determination of Domicile [§3114(1)]
Priority Rules for Payment of PIP Benefits: Resident Relatives [§3114(1)]

TOPICAL INDEXING:    
Interpretation of Insurance Contracts 


CASE SUMMARY:       

In this unanimous unpublished per curiam Opinion, the Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed a grant of summary disposition in favor of the Estate of Galen McDevitt, holding he was a “resident” of the household of his stepfather and mother on the date of the accident that caused his death and, therefore, was a “covered person” under the liability portion of the applicable insurance policy.

The issue in this case turned on whether Galen McDevitt was a “resident” of the household of his mother and stepfather when the accident occurred.  The facts demonstrated that Galen had lived with his mother most of his life and resided with her for four months before joining the Army.  Galen was home on a one-week leave before deployment to Afghanistan and visited his sister in Grand Rapids who allowed him to drive her leased Jeep.  Galen was staying with his mother and stepfather and driving his sister’s Jeep when the accident occurred.  A liability claim was made against his Estate, and United Services Automobile Association disputed coverage on the grounds that Galen did not satisfy the definition of “resident” of his mother’s household in order to be considered a covered person under the policy.

In upholding the trial court grant of summary disposition in favor of the Estate, the Court of Appeals rejected the insurance company’s argument that the trial court erred by applying the Workman¬-Dairyland multi-factor, totality of the circumstances tests developed for determining “domicile” for the purpose of no-fault benefits under MCL 500.3114.  The insurance company argued that the construction given to “domicile” under the No-Fault Act should not be incorporated into the meaning of “residence” as contained in the insurance liability contract.  The Court of Appeals rejected this argument and pointed out that Michigan has long considered the terms “resident” and “domicile” as synonymous.  Accordingly, the Workman multi-factor test as developed in Workman v Detroit Automobile Inter-Insurance Exchange (DAIIE), 404 Mich 477 (1979) was appropriately applied.  Further, the Court stated that even if it accepted the insurer’s argument that the phrase “resident of the insured’s household” does not equate to “domicile,” the trial court correctly concluded that Galen was a “resident” of his mother’s household at the time of the accident.  The Court reiterated the factors it considered supportive of his residency status, pointing out that Galen had lived most of his entire life with his mother, resided with her for four months before joining the Army, and returned to her household while on leave between Army duty stations.  The evidence supported the conclusion that Galen intended to maintain his residence with his mother until he established his own domicile.

Accordingly, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court, finding in favor of the Estate. 


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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