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Court holds that migrant worker was a Michigan resident at the time of accident

Three migrant workers were hurt in a car accident near Grand Rapids.  The men had rented an apartment for the duration of blueberry-picking season in Michigan.  For several years they had made a circuit between three states, Florida, North Carolina and Michigan, on a seasonal basis.  They were traveling in a vehicle owned by Salvador Lorenzo.  Mr. Lorenzo had registered for a Michigan drivers license eight years earlier, using his temporary migrant housing address in Hartland, Michigan.  Most recently he had purchased auto insurance in North Carolina from Integon National Insurance Company. 

When Lorenzo bought the auto insurance, his car was garaged in North Carolina and his temporary North Carolina address was used for the application.  Lorenzo had no long-term or permanent address anywhere, carried all of his worldly belongings with him wherever he went, spoke no English, and had no other non-temporary ties to any state or location. On this basis, the trial judge ruled that he was not a Michigan resident, and therefore Integon, as the insurer of his vehicle, was obligated to pay PIP benefits to all three men (because Integon is a registered insurer with the State of Michigan). 

The Court of Appeals reversed the lower court which had concluded that Lorenzo was a resident of Florida because he spent the majority of his time there.  h confirmed longstanding Michigan law holding that every person must have a "domicile" or residency.  A "home."  Since Lorenzo had no plans to stay anywhere "indefinitely" and no "home" in the most common legal sense, the Court looked to his one formal tie, his Michigan drivers license, and declared him to be a Michigan resident. 

While this holding merely shifted the duty to pay PIP benefits for the two non-owner workers from Integon to Titan (under the Assigned Benefits Plan), it also amounts to a declaration that Lorenzo is disqualifed from receiving PIP benefits (primarily medical coverage). Michigan law says that a resident who doesn't purchase Michigan no fault coverage is disqualified from receiving PIP benefits from any source--even if the "resident" has purchased legitimate coverage while living out-of-state. 

So, even though Integon--which presumably knows a lot more about Michigan insurance than an itinerant farm worker--insured Lorenzo in accordance with his Michigan driver's license, and collected premiums, the unsophisticated man who did not speak English is disqualified from the benefits that Integon should have written into his policy.  That won't bother Henry Saad, the author of the opinion and best friend of the insurance industry.

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
309 East Front Street
Traverse City, Michigan 49684
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