We’ve previously discussed the general significance of determining an individual’s domicile, or where they reside, for the purpose of establishing Michigan no-fault PIP coverage availability under Michigan’s auto no-fault scheme.
However, this analysis also intersects with the family law realm. What happens if a minor whose parents are divorced is injured in a car accident? Under which parent’s coverage is that minor protected? How would the custody agreement factor into the determination, if at all?
These questions were answered in Chaney v Titan Indemnity Co, a Court of Appeals decision handed down this past Tuesday, January 7, 2014. In Chaney, the Plaintiff, a minor, was a passenger in a vehicle involved in an accident. Plaintiff suffered injury to his head and shoulder. At the time the injury was sustained, Plaintiff resided in a house in Detroit owned by his mother, who had been awarded custody over him years prior. Plaintiff sought no-fault PIP coverage from his mother’s insurance company, Titan Indemnity Company, the Defendant. Titan denied the claim, holding that Plaintiff was not domiciled with his mother. She owned another house in Grand Blanc, and spent “two to three weekends per month” at her Detroit residence.
The Michigan Court of Appeals relied on Grange Ins Co of Mich v Lawrence, issued last year. In Grange, the Michigan Supreme Court held that the custody agreement controls where a minor child is domiciled, and that determination is valid for purposes of the No-Fault Act. Specifically, the Grange court held:
Further, in the event even that the child’s parents are divorced and a family court has entered an order relating to custody, we hold, consistent with the common law of domicile as it pertains to minors and the legally binding nature of custody orders, that the child’s domicile is established by operation of law and that the custody order is thus determinative of the child’s domicile for all purposes, including the no-fault act.
Upon reviewing the divorce judgment, the Court in Chaney found that Plaintiff’s mother was awarded custody. As a result, Plaintiff was indeed domiciled with his mother and could therefore seek no-fault PIP benefits from Titan.
These types of nuances in the law are one reason why navigating through Michigan’s auto no-fault system may seem to be a daunting task. If you ever have any questions about auto no-fault law and its extensive requirements, you should consider contacting Michigan car accident attorneys who specialize in this very area.