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Michael F. Schmidt And Nathan Peplinski Obtain Summary Disposition In No Fault Priority Dispute Based On Domicile

Home-Owners Insurance Company v Liberty Mutual Insurance Company, Central Mutual Insurance Company and State Farm Mutual, Eaton County Circuit Court, claim by Home-Owners Insurance Company to obtain reimbursement of $623,000 in no fault benefits paid for injuries and death of Brent Hannahs who was injured and subsequently died from injuries incurred in an auto accident in which he was riding a bicycle and struck by a tow truck. Home-Owners argued that it was not the responsible insurer because Brent Hannahs was not domiciled with its insured, Merna Rasmussen (Brent’s grandmother), at the time of his death. Home-Owners argued that Brent had only been residing with Merna on a temporary basis for several months and that the no fault benefits should be paid by Liberty Mutual, the insurer of Clint Hannahs, Brent’s father, with whom Brent was previously domiciled or by Central Mutual Insurance Company, the insurer of the tow truck involved in the accident. Home-Owners obtained examination under oath testimony from Merna Rasmussen, Clint Hannahs, and Roxanna Hannahs prior to suit, suit was then filed and the parties then deposed the same three witnesses and then all filed cross-motions for summary disposition. Our motion for summary disposition on behalf of Liberty Mutual, the insurer of Clint Hannahs, was on the basis that Brent Hannahs was domiciled with Clint Hannahs after Clint and Roxanna divorced but that Brent had run away from Clint Hannahs’ home at age 17 ½ and had no intent to ever return, and never did return. The accident did not occur until Brent was over age 19 and thus he was no longer a minor and subject to any custody order. Further, at the time of the accident Brent had been living with his grandmother, Merna Rasmussen, for several months and had met all of the factors set forth to determine domicile by Workman v DAIIE, 404 Mich 477 (1979), and Dairyland v Auto-Owners, 123 Mich App 675 (1983), and that Brent’s residence with Merna Rasmussen was not for a mere special or temporary purpose but rather was with a present intention to make her home his home for an indefinite length of time. After reviewing the cross-motions for summary disposition filed by all of the parties and the response and reply briefs and having heard oral argument, the trial court granted summary disposition to Liberty Mutual and Central Mutual and denied Home-Owners’ motion for summary disposition, determining that Brent Hannahs’ only domicile at the time of the accident was with Merna Rasmussen, Home-Owners’ insured, and thus Home-Owners was responsible for all no fault benefits.