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Volume XXV, No. 14, August 22, 2013

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

From the Editor: Simeon R. Orlowski

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Factors To Be Considered In Determining Resident Relative Status In Homeowners’ Policies

CONTRIBUTOR – DAVID M. SHAFER

Homeowners’ insurance policies often state that their coverage extends not only to the named insured, but also to a relative who is a “resident” in the insured’s household at the time that a claimant is injured. However, the term “resident” is often not defined in homeowners’ insurance policies. Accordingly, whether a person was a “resident” in the insured’s household at the time of a claimant’s injury is generally determined by courts under principles evolved in the common law. The common law is simply the body of law developed and stated in court opinions.

In a recently issued, unpublished opinion of the Michigan Court of Appeals, the Court succinctly summarizes the nine common-law factors to be used for determining whether a person is a “resident” in an insured’s household at the time of a claimant’s injury for purposes of homeowner’s insurance coverage.

Thus, in Fremont Ins Co v Martin, (Docket #310906, rel’d 8/15/13), Court of Appeals Judges William Whitbeck, Donald Owens and Michael Kelly state as follows:

[O]ur Supreme Court determined [in Workman v DAIIE, 404 Mich 477, 496-497 (1979)] that courts should evaluate whether a person is a resident of a household by balancing all the relevant factors:

In considering these factors, no one factor is, in itself, determinative; instead, each factor must be balanced and weighed with the others. Among the relevant factors are the following: (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. [Citation omitted.]

This Court has identified the following additional factors to consider when determining where a person resides: [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 on the insured for financial support or assistance.

In the Fremont Ins Co case, the Court of Appeals affirmed an order of the Newaygo Circuit Court that the insured’s son was not a resident of the insured’s household at the time that the claimant was injured, so that the plaintiff insurer was entitled to a declaratory judgment that it owed no insurance coverage.

In the Fremont Ins Co case, the son had graduated from high school in 2009, had moved out of his father’s (the insured’s) house in September, 2010, to live in an apartment with his girlfriend, had taken most of his personal property with him, had not changed his address with the post office, and had not changed his address on his driver’s license. He visited his father occasionally and spent the night at his father’s house about three times during the period in issue. On October 29, 2010, while the father was out of town, the son hosted a party in a pole barn at his father’s residence at which alcohol was served to partygoers. The claimant, who was one of the partygoers, was injured after he left the party when the car in which he was a passenger and which was being driven by another partygoer crashed into a tree. About three months after the accident, in January, 2011, the son and his girlfriend broke up, and the son moved back into his father’s home. The Court of Appeals concluded that, “[c]onsidering these [nine] factors in light of the undisputed facts, it is evident that [the son] had changed his domicile to the apartment that he had with his girlfriend . . . before the accident. . . . Therefore, he was not an insured under his father’s policy.” The Court also emphasized that, “where the underlying facts are not in dispute, as is the case here, whether the individual at issue was a resident of the insured’s household is a question of law for the courts” to decide.

 

A copy of the five-page Fremont Ins Co opinion is available Online, free of charge, at: http://publicdocs.courts.mi.gov:81/opinions/final/coa/20130815_c310906_36_310906.opn.pdf.

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REGISTER NOW:  TROY BREAKFAST SEMINAR

TROY BREAKFAST SEMINAR WILL TAKE PLACE ON THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 5, 2013 AT THE TROY MARRIOTT. CONTACT EILEEN CARTY AT ECARTY@GARANLUCOW.COM OR (800)875-7600.

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SAVE THE DATE

BUCKEYE SEMINAR WILL TAKE PLACE ON THURSDAY OCTOBER 17, 2013 AT THE GREATER COLUMBUS CONVENTION CENTER. WATCH LAW FAX FOR FURTHER DETAILS REGARDING REGISTRATION AND AGENDA.

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REGISTER NOW:

BASICS OF MICHIGAN AUTOMOBILE NO FAULT INSURANCE LAW COURSE

Garan Lucow Miller, P.C. will be teaching the Basics of No Fault course on Tuesday evenings from October 1 through November 26, 2013.  The classes will be held at the Lexington Hotel (soon to be named Crowne Plaza), 925 S. Creyts Road, Lansing, Michigan 48192 from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

The cost for this 9 week course will be $350.00 per person.  GLM will offer a discounted rate for our clients that register 2 or more from the same company.

For a Course Curriculum, please download the full version of this LawFax publication using the link at the top of this page.

Please contact Eileen Carty at ecarty@garanlucow.com to register, or call at (800) 875-7600.