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Court decides factual issue of young man's residency in voiding insurance coverage

Normally in Michigan, the resolution of factual disputes is the province of the jury.  The Court of Appeals usurped that authority, however, in Fremont Insurance Company v. Billy Ray Martin, et al.  Fremont wrote coverage for the at-fault young man's father but refused to cover the damages caused by the insured's son.  The boy moved out of his father's home and into an apartment with his girlfriend in September 2010.  He lived with the girl for four months.  During that time, he sponsored a party in his dad's pole barn where alcohol was illegally provided to minors.  In leaving the party, there was a wreck that caused one passenger to suffer a serious brain injury.  The victim's family attempted to hold the party sponsor accountable, along with his insurer.

Although the boy still listed his father's home as his address on his driver's license and left his hunting and fishing equipment with the father, he removed his other belongings when he lived with the girlfriend.  The father's home remained his mailing address (which was never changed at the post office) for everything except his phone bill, "but he didn't receive much mail there."  He also felt comfortable allowing himself into the house at the time of the party, and helped himself to Dad's booze.  Nevertheless, the Court concluded that he was not a resident of the home when the party occurred, AS A MATTER OF LAW.  There are probably a dozen decisions or perhaps twice that many, holding that under these circumstances, the boy's "domicile" is a question of fact for jurors.  Not for the first time, an insurer gets to avoid not only a potential insured obligationl, but even a trial on the merits.

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
309 East Front Street
Traverse City, Michigan 49684
Toll Free: 1-800-678-1307
Fax: 231-929-7262