Court of Appeals majority rules that a step-child remains a relative even after parent's deah
Liz Patmon was hurt in a motor vehicle collision. She and her orthopedic surgeons sued Nationwide Mutual for PIP coverage. Nationwide argued that it was not the proper insurer to pay benefits because it insured Patmon's step-father, and they lived in the same household, but they were not "related" since Patmon's mother had died. The Court noted that the law in this field was "unsettled" and that the wording of Nationwide's policy was ambiguous. It concluded that it should follow a prior decision that held that "where the relationship by affinity is in fact, as it was in this case, continued beyond the death of one of the parties to the marriage which created the relationship, and where the parties continue to maintain the same family ties and relationships, considering themselves morally bound to care for each other, the District Court properly found that the relationship continued to exist..."
Judge Peter O'Connell, a pro-insurance judge who is a good barometer for the Republican majority on the Michigan Supreme Court, dissented. He noted that "in principle I would agree with my colleague's well-written opinion [that]...reaches an equitable result in a heart-tugging factual situation..." Nevertheless, he deemed the conclusion "legally unsound." In essence, he predicted that the Republican majority will rule that no insurance benefits are payable because the step-child was no longer related to the step-parent she lived with, after her mother died.