MICHIGAN NO-FAULT ACT: MINOR MAINTAINED TWO DOMICILES
In the recent Michigan Court Of Appeals decision of Grange Insurance Co. v. Farm Bureau General Insurance Company of Michigan, ___Mich App___; ___ NW2d___(2012), the Court held that a minor of divorced parents may legally maintain a domicile at each of the parents’ homes sufficient to trigger benefits under the Michigan No-Fault Act, MCL 500.3114. The minor, Josalyn, was severally injured as the result of a motor vehicle collision while a passenger in an automobile driven by her mother and insured by Farm Bureau. Josalyn eventually died of her injuries. Grange Insurance was the No-Fault carrier for Josalyn’s father. Grange filed a Declaratory Judgment action asking the trial court to find that Josalyn was not an insured under the policy. Grange asserted that since the divorce decree stated the Mother was to have primary physical custody, Josalyn was not a resident relative of her father’s home. Farm Bureau counter-claimed and argued that Josalyn was domiciled at both her mother’s and father’s homes. Farm Bureau sought reimbursement of half of the benefits it paid as a result of the heroic efforts attempted to save Josalyn’s life, arguing that the carriers were equal in priority.
The trial court agreed with Farm Bureau, who was represented by Michael Ward, and awarded Farm Bureau fifty percent of the benefits expended as a result of the medical expenses. The trial court also concluded that the Grange policy improperly restricted coverage for “resident relatives” by requiring the relative to be “primarily” living at the named insured’s residence.
Grange appealed the trial court’s rulings, arguing the trial court erred in its interpretation of the No-Fault Act, and further erred in concluding that a minor of divorced parents could have two domiciles. The Court Of Appeals affirmed the trial court and concluded that a minor of divorced parents sharing joint legal custody could maintain two domiciles for purposes of the No-Fault Act. The decision is the first published decision in the State of Michigan addressing the issue of minors of divorced parents maintaining two domiciles.