February 05, 2014
Recently, in Chaney v Titan Indemnity Company, unpublished opinion per curiam of the Court of Appeals, issued January 7, 2014 (Docket No. 311513), the Court of Appeals utilized a Judgment of Divorce entered years before by a family court to determine the domicile of a minor child.
On July 3, 2010, Vincent Chaney, while a minor, was involved in a motor vehicle accident and suffered injuries. At the time of the accident, Plaintiff lived with his half-sister in a home owned by his mother in Detroit. However, his mother lived in a home in Grand Blanc, and only spent two or three weekends per month in the Detroit home.
Plaintiff sought PIP benefits from Titan, claiming that he was a resident relative domiciled in the same household as his mother, pursuant to MCL 500.3114(1). Titan acknowledged that Plaintiff was domiciled at the Detroit address, but argued that his mother was not, as she domiciled at the Grand Blanc address.
Citing the Michigan Supreme Court’s opinion in Grange Ins Co of Mich v Lawrence, 494 Mich 475 (2013), which held that custody orders established, by operation of law, a child’s domicile, the Chaney Court took judicial notice that a Judgment of Divorce, entered by the family court on October 21, 1993, provided that the Plaintiff’s mother was “awarded the care, custody, maintenance and education of” the Plaintiff. As such, the Plaintiff was found to be a resident relative of his mother, regardless of where he and his mother actually resided.
As a practical matter, when dealing with a minor child whose parents are divorced, insurers should obtain copies of the Judgment of Divorce entered with the circuit court and any subsequent Orders which may modify custody, in order to determine whether the minor child is a resident relative of an insured.