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Zaiya v Encompass Indemnity Co, et al (COA – UNP 3/25/2021; RB #4241)

Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket Nos. 350733, 353157; Unpublished
Judges O’Brien, Servitto and Gleicher; per curiam
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: Not Applicable; Link to Opinion


STATUTORY INDEXING:
Determination of Domicile [§3114(1)]

TOPICAL INDEXING:
Interpretation of Insurance Contracts


SUMMARY:
In this unanimous unpublished per curiam opinion, the Court of Appeals found that: (1) the circuit court erred in determining Plaintiff Zaiya’s domicile as a matter of law this case, because “Zaiya presented evidence that she resided in two separate households at the time of her accident; and (2) the circuit court correctly determined as a matter of law that Zaiya was not an “insured” under the language of her daughter, Renee’s, no-fault policy.

This case arose from an accident in which Ikhlas Zaiya was injured while driving a vehicle owned by her daughter, Renee Yacoub, and insured through Encompass Indemnity Company. At the time of the accident, Zaiya did not have a vehicle or insurance policy or her own. Zaiya instead split her time between the homes of her daughters, Renee and Rita Yacoub. Rita’s vehicles were insured through Liberty Mutual Insurance Company. After the accident, Zaiya sought PIP benefits from Encompass and Liberty Mutual. Neither company paid her claims, resulting in a series of lawsuits. In one lawsuit, the circuit court “summarily determined that Zaiya was domiciled with her daughter Rita Yacoub and therefore was covered by Rita’s no-fault policy issued by Liberty Mutual Insurance Company.” In a second suit, the circuit court held that “Zaiya was not a named policyholder under Renee Yacoub’s policy through Encompass Indemnity and therefore her domicile with Rita continued to control coverage.”

On appeal, the Court noted that factual questions remained as to Zaiya’s domicile. In analyzing this issue, the Court noted that MCL 500.3114(1) provides that “a personal protection insurance policy . . . applies to accidental bodily injury to the person named in the policy, the person’s spouse, and a relative of either domiciled in the same household, if the injury arises from a motor vehicle accident.” The Court further noted that the no-fault act does not define “domiciled,” but clarified that given the nature of a domicile, a person can only have one at a time. Because the underlying facts were in dispute, the Court clarified that domicile had become a question of law, and required a multifactor test to resolve. These factors were established in the wase of Workman v Detroit Auto Inter-Ins Exch, 404 Mich 477, 274 NW2d 373 (1979), and include:

"(1) the subjective or declared intent of the person of remaining, either permanently or for an indefinite or unlimited length of time, in the place he contends is his 'domicile' or 'household;' (2) the formality or informality of the relationship between the person and the members of the household; (3) whether the place where the person lives is in the same house, within the same curtilage or upon the same premises; (4) the existence of another place of lodging by the person alleging 'residence' or 'domicile' in the household[.] [Workman, 404 Mich at 496-497 (citations omitted).]"

These factors were expanded in Dairyland Ins Co v Auto-Owners Ins Co, 123 Mich App 675; 333 NW2d 322 (1983), to include

"(1) the person’s mailing address; (2) whether the person maintains possessions at the insured’s home; (3) whether the insured’s address appears on the person’s driver’s license and other documents; (4) whether a bedroom is maintained for the person at the insured’s home; and (5) whether the person is dependent upon the insured for financial support or assistance. [Id. at 497 n 41, quoting Dairyland, 123 Mich App at 682.]"

In applying the Workman factors to the case at hand, the Court noted that the first factor provided “little insight,” as Zaiya had repeatedly testified that she “intended to split her time evenly between the homes of her two daughters” at the time of the accident, and that it was only after the accident that Zaiaya decided to remain at Renee’s home full time. As to the second factor, the Court noted that Zaiya “enjoyed an informal, familial relationship with the other household members.” In examining the third factor, the Court noted that Zaiya lived within the house of both Renee and Rita, and did not live in a separate apartment or building elsewhere on the property. Finally, the Court noted that, as to the fourth factor, “Zaiya claimed that Encompass and Liberty had equal duties to provide coverage because Zaiya lived in two residences.” Ultimately, the Court found the Workman factors to be of little help, as they established that “Zaiya actually lived in two separate homes, favoring neither as her domicile . . . [b]ut this is not legally permitted for PIP coverage purposes.”

Thus, the Court turned to the Dairyman factors for more clarification. The Court noted that, regarding the first factor, Zaiya used both Rita and Renee’s addresses as her mailing address. In analyzing the second and fourth factors, the Court noted that Zaiya had a bedroom and maintained possessions at both homes. The Court found the remaining two Dairyman factors inconclusive. While Rita’s address was listed on Zaiya’s passport and current driver's license, Zaiaya had listed Renee’s address on her diver’s license in the past. Further, the Court noted that Zaiya appeared partially financially independent, as she paid rent to Rita and purchased some groceries for the home, but also appeared partially financially dependent on Renee, as Renee leased a vehicle for Zaiya and paid the insurance, as well as providing Zaiya with a cell phone.

Ultimately, the Court found that “[t]he record evidence in this case was not open and shut; it left open issues upon which reasonable minds certainly could differ. Accordingly, in Case A, the circuit court should not have disregarded the general rule that domicile is a question of fact by resolving the issue as a matter of law.” Thus, the Court vacated the grant of summary disposition in favor of Encompass.

The Court next turned to the question of whether the circuit court properly determined that Zaiya was not an “insured” under the Encompass policy issued to Renee. The Court noted that the Encompass identified Renee as the “rated driver” of one vehicle and Zaiya as the “rated driver” of a second vehicle. Further, Zaiya’s name was listed in a section entitled “driver information.” The Court emphasized that Zaiya contended she was entitled to benefits from Encompass under MCL 500.3114(4), which “applies when the injured person is not covered by his or her own insurance or the insurance of a relative domiciled in the same household under MCL 500.3114(1) and permits the injured person to seek benefits from the no-fault insurers of others, including the vehicle’s owner, registrant, or operator.” However, the Court found that MCL 500.3114(4) did not apply to this case, because “although Zaiya was not a named insured, she fell within another category listed in subsection (1)—she is domiciled with relatives (although it is still unclear with which relatives she was domiciled at the time of her accident). The insurer of Zaiya’s domiciliary will have top priority in this coverage dispute. Accordingly, we affirm that portion of the summary disposition order denying coverage as a named insured under the Encompass policy.”

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