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Volume XXVII, No. 3, March 6, 2015       

From the Law Offices of Garan Lucow Miller, P.C.

From the Editor: Sarah Nadeau 

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Modern Families and Resident Relative Coverage

 

By Thomas Herman

The Michigan No-Fault Act provides that personal protection insurance benefits must be paid to a named insured, the named insureds’ spouse, “and a relative of either domiciled in the same household.”  MCL 500.3145(1).  The statute does not provide a specific definition of “relative.”  By implication, however, a person is not automatically deemed a relative of all of their spouse’s relatives.  Otherwise the statute would have referenced relatives “of both”, or simply omitted the language “of either” and extended coverage to “a relative domiciled in the same household.”

Early No-Fault decisions extended the definition of relative to include a daughter-in-law.  See Workman v DAIIE, 404 Mich 477; 274 NW2d 373 (1979).  This is in accord with a common understanding of “relatives” to include “in-laws” such as mother-in-laws, father-in-laws, brother-in-laws and sister-in-laws, but not uncle-in-laws or more distant relationships.

Patmon v Nationwide (Court of Appeals No. 318307), released on December 23, 2014, involved a 39-year old step-child living with and renting a room from her step-father several years after the death of her biological mother.  The Patmon Court extended coverage, but professed to rely on the policy language rather than the language of the statute to do so.  The No-Fault automobile insurance policy at issue included a definition of relative as a person living in the household and related to the insured “by blood, marriage or adoption.”  The Patmon Court concluded, in a 2-1 decision, that the step-daughter claimant continued to be related by marriage to her step-father even after the death of her biological mother.  It held, “Context is key. Here, the relationship by marriage persists because the parties remain connected at a minimum by their decision to share a residence.”  This reasoning allowed the Court to distinguish a 2003 Probate Court decision that a surviving spouse is no longer related to the other spouse’s children for subsequent inheritance determinations, and similar decisions concerning interested parties in wrongful death distributions.

While Patmon technically did not provide a definition of relative as used in the No-Fault Act, a similar interpretation may occur in future cases even in the absence of a definition of relative in the applicable insurance policy.

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GLM Contributes to The Pink Fund

Above is a picture of Dan Saylor and Eileen Carty of Garan Lucow Miller, presenting a check from proceeds of the sale of the Michigan No-Fault Manual, to Molly MacDonald, Founder and CEO of The Pink Fund,.

The Pink Fund distributes short-term financial aid for basic living expenses on behalf of breast cancer patients who have lost all or part of their income during active treatment.

Molly MacDonald, was named to MONEY Magazine’s list of “50 Heroes, 50 States”, as the “Money Hero” representing Michigan, for her work in providing 90 days of non-medical financial assistance to breast cancer patients in treatment.

 

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The Honorable Terrence R. Thomas Joins Garan Lucow Miller, P.C.

 

GRAND RAPIDS B February, 2015, Judge Terrence R. Thomas retired as a judge for the 27th Circuit Court in Michigan (counties of Oceana and Newaygo) on January 1, 2015, after 36 years on the bench.

Judge Thomas earned his undergraduate degree from Wayne State University and his law degree from the Detroit College of Law, before becoming licensed to practice law in 1968.  After 10 years of private practice, he served as the Newaygo County Prosecutor for two years before being elected Judge.

Judge Terrence R. Thomas joins the law firm of Garan Lucow Miller, P.C. in an of-counsel position, and will continue his lifetime of service to the legal community by performing alternative dispute resolution, including mediation, facilitation, case evaluation, and arbitration.

 

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GLM Welcomes New Associate

 

Nicolette S. Zachary, joins the Troy office of Garan Lucow Miller as an associate attorney, specializing in insurance defense ligitigation, commercial trucking, and premises liability. Nicolette received her B.A. and J.D. from Wayne State University.

 

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SAVE THE DATE! GRAND RAPIDS BREAKFAST SEMINAR

 

The Grand Rapids Breakfast Seminar is scheduled for Thursday, April 23, 2015 at the

Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids.

Watch LawFax and firm website for seminar agenda.

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