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Witt v American Family Mutual Insurance Company and Allstate Insurance Company; (COA-PUB, 10/29/1996; RB #1890)


Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket Nos. 173331, 176070 and 176129; Published;   
Judges Corrigan, MacKenzie, and Clulo; Unanimous; Per Curiam  
Official Michigan Reporter Citation:  219 Mich App 602; Link to Opinion alt   

Compulsory Insurance Requirements for Owners or Registrants of Motor Vehicles Required to Be Registered [§3101(1)]   
Disqualification for Uninsured Owners or Registrants of Involved Motor Vehicles or Motorcycles [§3113(b)]
Obligations of Admitted Insurers to Pay PIP Benefits on Behalf of Nonresidents Injured in Michigan [§3163(1)]

Not Applicable    

In this unanimous per curiam published Opinion, the Court of Appeals denied no-fault benefits to plaintiff who was involved in a three car accident in 1992, in which he was driving his girlfriend's car, insured by Allstate, and which was involved in a head-on collision with an uninsured motorist. In the same accident, plaintiff’s girlfriend was driving plaintiffs vehicle, insured by American, which struck the vehicle plaintiff was driving in the rear. The insurance policy on plaintiffs automobile through American did not provide for the payment of no-fault benefits, since it was a policy obtained in 1990 when he was living with his parents in Iowa, and the vehicle remained registered in Iowa. The Court of Appeals held that because plaintiffs own car, driven by his girlfriend, was involved in the accident, and because it was not insured as required by §3101(1), he was not entitled to benefits.

Both insurers denied coverage at the trial level, Allstate on the basis that plaintiff had failed to comply with the requirements of §3101(1) which requires that an owner or registrant of a motor vehicle required to be registered in this state shall maintain security for payment of benefits under personal protection insurance. MCLA 257.216 required that plaintiff register his vehicle in Michigan, which he failed to do. Pursuant to §3113(b) of the no-fault act, a person is not entitled to be paid no-fault benefits if the person was the owner or registrant of a motor vehicle "involved in the accident" with respect to which the required insurance under §3101 was not in effect. Thus, Allstate contended that since the vehicle being driven by plaintiffs girlfriend (his automobile registered in Iowa and insured by American) was not properly registered in Michigan and insured for no-fault benefits, then plaintiff was not entitled to receive no-fault benefits, because his vehicle was "involved" in the accident within the meaning of §3113(b). The Court of Appeals held that there was an "active link" between the injury plaintiff received and plaintiffs vehicle which was driven by his girlfriend at the time of the accident and was not properly insured under §3101.

The Court of Appeals also held that plaintiff was not entitled to receive benefits from American. Plaintiff contended that he was an Iowa resident and that American was obligated to pay him no-fault benefits as an out-of-state insurer pursuant to §3163. The Court of Appeals held that plaintiff was not an Iowa resident under the facts of this case. The determination of domicile is a question of fact to be resolved by the trial court. In this case, the Court of Appeals held that the evidence clearly established that plaintiff was a resident of Michigan, and not Iowa, because plaintiff moved to this state in 1990, continuously lived and worked here, registered to vote in Michigan, maintained bank and checking accounts here, and had a Michigan telephone number. Further, his state and federal tax returns declare him to be a Michigan resident, and his employment records describe his residence as Michigan. Based upon all of the facts, the court concluded that plaintiff was not an Iowa resident and, therefore, American was not obligated to pay him no-fault benefits.

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