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Wolverine Mutual Ins Co v State Farm Mutual Automobile Ins Co; (COA-UNP, 7/21/2015; RB #3445)

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Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket #322318; Unpublished  
Judges Servitto, Beckering, and Boonstra; Unanimous; Per Curiam  
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: Not Applicable; Link to Opinion alt  


STATUTORY INDEXING:
Exception for Motorcycle Injuries [§3114(5)]

TOPICAL INDEXING:
Not Applicable  


CASE SUMMARY:  
In this unanimous unpublished per curiam Opinion, the Court of Appeals held that Wolverine Mutual was responsible for PIP benefits for injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident involving a motor vehicle, because Wolverine was the auto insurer of the motorcyclists and there was no coverage for the involved vehicle, its operator, or its owner. The court’s decision turned on a finding that neither the owner nor the operator of the uninsured vehicle that struck the motorcyclists were domiciled with either of their parents.

The PIP benefits at issue in this case were paid for injuries suffered by a motorcyclist and motorcycle passenger (the Adcocks), who were struck by an uninsured Dodge Stratus. The Stratus was owned by Shawnah-May Lucky and was being driven by Jonathan Porter at the time of the accident. The two were boyfriend and girlfriend. Following the accident, PIP benefits were paid by Wolverine, the Adcocks’ no-fault insurer. Wolverine subsequently came to the conclusion that Porter and/or Lucky were domiciled with either Lucky’s parents or, alternatively, Porter’s parents — both of whom coincidentally had no-fault policies with State Farm. On this basis, Wolverine sought to establish that State Farm was responsible for paying plaintiff’s claim under the priority provisions of MCL 500.3114(5)(a) and (b).

The Court of Appeals rejected these arguments and held that Wolverine was the priority insurer. In rejecting Wolverine’s contention that Lucky was domiciled with her parents, the court reasoned:

“Shawnah-May was not domiciled in [her parents’] home at the time of the accident. Shawnah-May moved out of her parents’ home in approximately November 2011. She testified in her deposition that she intended the move to be permanent and that she never intended to return to her parents’ home. … Shawnah-May retained a key to her parents’ home, but it is undisputed that she took all of her belongings with her when she left. Although she occasionally visited her parents’ home after she moved out, she never spent the night at the home. … The record reveals that Shawnah-May initially filled out a change-of-address form and had her mail diverted to [Porter’s parents’] home after she moved into the apartment with Jonathan. … She also had some of her mail sent to her parents’ home. And, she listed her parents’ address on job applications and on her driver’s license at the time of the accident. … On these undisputed facts, we agree with State Farm that, as a matter of law, Shawnah-May was not domiciled with her parents at the time of the accident.”

In determining that Porter was not domiciled with his parents, the Court of Appeals said:

“There was no dispute that, at the time of the accident, Jonathan’s parents insured their personal vehicles under [a] State Farm policy, and there is no dispute that the only possible insurer of Jonathan was State Farm pursuant to [his parents’] State Farm policy. However, [the parents’] State Farm policy is not part of the record and plaintiff did not offer any evidence to support its argument that if Jonathan was domiciled with [his parents] at the time of the accident, then Jonathan was insured under [his parents’] State Farm policy. … And, assuming that such a policy existed and that liability could be predicated on Jonathan’s domicile, we note there are still questions of fact remaining as to where Jonathan was domiciled. … In other words, there was insufficient evidence in the record to support a finding that Jonathan was, or even could be, insured under his parents’ State Farm policy. And, there was no evidence presented that Jonathan was insured under any other State Farm policy. Therefore, nothing in the record supports a finding that plaintiff was entitled to summary disposition as a matter of law based on a finding that [the] State Farm policy was higher in priority.”

The Court of Appeals concluded:

“Because these are the only two policies on which the trial court could have found that State Farm was in a higher order of priority than plaintiff for payment of no-fault benefits arising out of the accident, the trial court erred when it granted plaintiff’s motion for summary disposition … and entered a declaratory judgment finding that State Farm was in a higher order of priority than plaintiff for the payment of 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.

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