Injured? Contact Sinas Dramis for a free consultation.

   

Titan Insurance Company v Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company and State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company; (COA-UNP, 2/23/2010, RB #3114)

Print

Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket #283050; Unpublished
Judges Wilder, Meter, and Fort Hood, unanimous, per curiam
Official Michigan Reporter Citation:  Not applicable, Link to Opinion


STATUTORY INDEXING:
Disqualification for non-residents [3113(b)]
Determination of domicile [3114(1)]
Obligation of non-residents owner/registrant to insure a vehicle [3102(1)]
Obligation of admitted insurers to pay PIP benefits on behalf of non-residents injured in Michigan [3163(1)]

TOPICAL INDEXING:
Not applicable


CASE SUMMARY:
In this unanimous unpublished per curiam opinion, the Court of Appeals held that State Farm Insurance Company, as an out-of-state insurer, was liable for its insured’s no-fault  benefits under MCL 500.3163 for injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident in Michigan, where the court determined the insured was not a Michigan resident.  In so concluding, the court noted the insured lived in Florida most of the year, paid his taxes in Florida, had a Florida driver’s license, and registered and insured his car in Florida.

State Farm appealed a declaratory judgment that it was liable to reimburse Titan Insurance Company for no-fault benefits Titan paid on behalf of Orlin Bestrom, a retiree who lived in Michigan five months a year and in Florida seven months a year.  The accident in question occurred while Bestrom, who was a volunteer at a camp in Michigan, was loading supplies into a truck.  The truck, which was in neutral, started rolling.  Bestrom attempted to jump back into the truck but was run over when he fell to the ground.  

The Michigan Assigned Claims Facility assigned Bestrom’s personal injury protection benefit claim to Titan.  Titan subsequently sued for a declaration regarding whether State Farm, Bestrom’s personal insurer in Florida, or Brotherhood Mutual, the camp’s no-fault insurer, were liable.  The trial court felt that Bestrom was not a resident of Michigan and, therefore, State Farm, as Bestrom’s personal insurer, was liable to Titan under MCL 500.3163, which requires that out-of-state insurers are liable for their insured’s no-fault benefits which were incurred as a result of a motor vehicle accident in Michigan.

On appeal, State Farm argued that the trial court improperly found that Bestrom was not a Michigan resident.  The Court of Appeals disagreed, setting the factors outlined in Cervantes v Farm Bureau Ins Co, 272 Mich App 410, 414; 726 NW2d 73 (2006).  In concluding that Bestrom was a Florida resident, the court noted that he lived in Florida the majority of the year.  It also noted that Bestrom had a Florida license and that his car is registered and insured through State Farm in Florida.  In addition, the court found that Bestrom paid his taxes in Florida and considers Florida to be his permanent state of residence.  Based upon these factors, the court concluded that the trial court properly found that Bestrom was a Florida resident.  In this regard, the court stated:

 

“In this case, Bestrom considers Florida to be his state of residence and has no intent of moving back to Michigan.  He files his federal tax return from his Florida address.  His driver’s license is from Florida, and his car is registered and insured in Florida.  He does not own property in Michigan, but his wife does.  He has bank accounts in both Michigan and Florida—for depositing his social security checks.  He has spent up to five months of each year for the past 27 years in Michigan.  He spends the remaining months in Florida.  Bestrom’s intent and the bulk of his permanent connections indicate that Florida is his residence.  Thus, although the trial court’s analysis was incomplete, the court did not clearly err in holding that Bestrom is a nonresident for purposes of the no-fault act.”

The Court then rejected State Farm’s argument that Bestrom should not be entitled to no-fault benefits because he did not register and insure his personal vehicle in Michigan, as required by MCL 500.3102, when a vehicle is used in Michigan for more than 30 days.  In rejecting State Farm’s argument, the court noted that although Bestrom did not register and insure his vehicle in Michigan, because the accident did not involve his personal vehicle, he is not barred from receiving no-fault benefits.  Moreover, the court noted that a person is not entitled to no-fault benefits under MCL 500.3113 in the following situations:

“(a)  The person was using a motor vehicle or motorcycle which he or she had taken unlawfully, unless the person reasonably believed that he or she was entitled to take and use the vehicle.

(b)  The person was the owner or registrant of a motor vehicle or motorcycle involved in the accident with respect to which the security required by section 3101 or 3103 was not in effect.

(c)  The person was not a resident of this state, was an occupant of a motor vehicle or motorcycle not registered in this state, and was not insured by an insurer which has filed a certification in compliance with section 3163.”

The court noted that there was no dispute that none of the provisions barring payment of benefits contained in §3113 applied in this case.  Finally, the court noted that Bestrom was not the owner or registrant of a vehicle involved in the accident and he was insured by an out-of-state insurer, State Farm.  In this regard, the court stated:

“There is no dispute that none of these subsections apply to the instant case because Bestrom was not the owner or registrant of the truck and he was personally insured by his out-of-state insurer, State Farm.  As State Farm  has provided no support for its assertion that Bestrom may not recover benefits, and we are unable to find any support for this contention, we conclude that Bestrom’s failure to adhere to MCL 500.3102 does not preclude eligibility for no-fault benefits.”


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.

Copyright © 2021 Sinas Dramis Law Firm, George Sinas, Stephen Sinas.
All Rights Reserved.
Login (Publishers Only)

FacebookTwitterInstagram