Author(s): L. Ladd Culbertson

Claimant Held to be Ohio Resident in No-Fault Priority Dispute

The Michigan Court of Appeals has held that a truck driver whose residence alternated between his parents’ home in Ohio, his girlfriend’s home in Michigan, and the sleeper compartment of his semi-truck, was an Ohio resident for purposes of the Michigan No-Fault Act, MCLA 500.3101, et seq.

In GEICO v Marshall, Unpublished Opinion per curiam of the Court of Appeals, decided November 18, 2008 (Docket No. 279060), the Court was faced with a no-fault priority dispute between GEICO Casualty Company and Western Reserve Mutual Casualty Company regarding which insurer was responsible for the payment of no-fault benefits for Timothy Marshall. GEICO had paid approximately $400,000 in benefits to Mr. Marshall under the belief that he had been an Ohio resident at the time of the accident. However, when Mr. Marshall later claimed to have actually been a resident of Michigan, GEICO filed suit against Western Reserve Mutual Casualty Company and Timothy Marshall, claiming that Western Reserve was responsible for payment of Mr. Marshall’s no-fault benefits, and that it was entitled to reimbursement of amounts it had previously paid.

The issue for the Court of Appeals was whether the trial court properly determined that Mr. Marshall was a resident of Ohio, meaning that as a non-resident of Michigan, GEICO was responsible for Mr. Marshall’s PIP benefits pursuant to MCLA 500.3163. In making this determination, the Court examined Workman v DAIIE, 404

a person 1.

2. 3. 4.

5. 6. 7. 8. 9.

resides, including:

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”;

the formality or informality of the relationship between the person and the members of the household;

whether the place where the person lives is in the same house, within the same curtilage or upon the same premises as the party with whom the person claims to be domiciled;

the existence of another place of lodging by the person alleging “residence” or “domicile” in the household;

the person’s mailing address;

whether the person maintains possessions in the home;

what address appears on the person’s driver’s license and other official documents;

whether a bedroom is maintained for the person at the residence; and

whether the person is dependent upon persons in the household for financial support or assistance.

Examining these factors, the Court noted that Mr. Marshall had alleged that his permanent residence was in the Michigan home of his girlfriend’s mother. However, Mr. Marshall had also stayed at his parents’ Ohio home for extended periods of time, both before and after the accident. In addition, it was learned that every official action Mr. Marshall took, both before and after the accident, including paying taxes, registering to vote, registering his vehicles, and renewing his driver’s license, identified him as an Ohio resident.

Mr. Marshall had no formal arrangement with his girlfriend or her mother regarding his staying in the Michigan home. There was no agreement regarding the payment of rent or household bills, although Marshall apparently “chipped in” what he wanted to pay, when he had the money to do so. Marshall did not have his own key to the Michigan house, and did not have his own bedroom space for his own use. Instead, Mr. Marshall would use the bedroom of his girlfriend’s son when he stayed the night.

However, what the Court found was most compelling was the fact that Marshall consistently used his parents’ address in Ohio as his mailing address for all “business-type” mail and for all official purposes. He had never used the address of the Michigan home for any important or official purpose. His parents’ address was on his driver’s license, tax returns, medical records, and was used for receiving bills and insurance information.

Based upon all of this evidence, the Court of Appeals found that the trial court did not commit error in holding that Marshall had been a resident of Ohio, despite his subjective claims to the contrary. As a result, the dismissal of GEICO’S Complaint against Western Reserve was proper.