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Williams v. Blincoe, et al. (COA – UNP 11/19/2020; RB #4182)

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Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket # 349953; Unpublished
Judges Boonstra, Cavanagh, and Borrello; Per Curiam
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: Not Applicable; Link to Opinion


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

TOPICAL INDEXING:
Not Applicable


SUMMARY:
In this unanimous unpublished per curiam decision, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s summary disposition order dismissing the plaintiff’s first-party action to recover no-fault PIP benefits under her step-father’s automobile insurance policy with defendant LM General Insurance Company (LM).  The Court of Appeals held that the plaintiff failed to present sufficient evidence to create a genuine issue of material fact as to whether she was domiciled with her stepfather at the time of the subject motor vehicle collision, and that she was therefore ineligible from receiving benefits under her stepfather’s policy.

Quatina Williams was injured in a motor vehicle collision while driving a rental vehicle her stepfather, Ronald Canty, had rented for her.  At the time of the collision, Williams had neither a valid driver’s license nor automobile insurance in her name, so she sought PIP benefits under Canty’s policy with LM.  In support of her claim for benefits, Williams submitted a sworn affidavit in which she claimed to reside at the same address listed on Canty’s policy.  However, Canty testified in his deposition that Williams was not living with him at the time of the collision at the address listed on his policy, and that she had never, in fact, lived at that address.  This contradicted Williams’s testimony, in which she claimed she had been living at her stepfather’s house for about two weeks when the collision occurred, but that she did not intend to stay there after the collision.  Ultimately, the trial court held that there was no genuine issue of material fact as to whether Williams lived with Canty at the time of the collision and dismissed her claim against LM altogether.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s summary disposition order in favor of LM, noting that the applicable tests for determining an individual’s domicile for purposes of the no-fault act were handed down in Workman v Detroit Auto Inter-Ins Exchange, 404 Mich 477 (1979) and Dairyland Ins Co v Auto-Owners Ins Co, 123 Mich App 675 (1983), respectively.  The Workman and Dairyland factors 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[.] [Id., quoting Workman, 404 Mich at 496-497 (citations omitted).]

. . .

(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.]

Applying these factors to the facts presented in this case, the Court of Appeals held that there was no genuine issue of material fact as to whether Williams was domiciled with Canty at the time of the collision.

In any case, even if we assume that plaintiff stayed with Canty for two weeks before this accident—as the trial court assumed—it is clear that plaintiff was not “domiciled” in the same household as Canty at the time of her accident. With regard to the applicable Workman and Dairyland factors, (1) plaintiff testified in her deposition that she did not intend to remain at Canty’s home and was only there temporarily until she could get her own place; (2) she had also stayed at her friend Delishia’s home for weeks; (3) plaintiff’s children did not stay with her at Canty’s home but instead stayed with plaintiff’s aunt; (4) plaintiff did not know the address of Canty’s home and did not change her address to his mailing address; (5) no documentation was presented which showed that plaintiff had ever used Canty’s address on important documents; and (6) when plaintiff was discharged from the hospital she did not return to Canty’s home. Thus, as the trial court concluded, it was clear from both plaintiff’s deposition testimony as well as her actions that Canty’s home was not plaintiff’s “true, fixed, permanent home, and principal establishment, and to which whenever [s]he is absent, [s]he has the intention of returning.” Lawrence, 494 Mich at 493. Rather, if she stayed with Canty, she did so for a temporary purpose and with no intention of making it her home, either permanently or for an indefinite period of time. See id. at 494. Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to plaintiff, reasonable minds could not differ regarding whether plaintiff was domiciled with Canty at the time of the accident. See El-Khalil, 504 Mich 160. The trial court properly concluded that no genuine issue of material fact existed that plaintiff was not domiciled with Canty at the time of her accident, and accordingly, defendant was entitled to summary disposition of plaintiff’s claim.

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