Family confusion about domicile and notice period make PIP benefits tenuous
Ben McKenzie suffered serious injuries when he was struck by a City bus. As with many young people, Ben's home situation was confusing. He apparently used his sister's home as a mailing address, but did not "live" there: he never placed his belongings with his sister and he was currently sleeping at his girlfriend's home. This confusion haunts McKenzie as he attempts to secure No Fault Personal Injury Protection benefits to cover his medical expenses.
Since McKenzie did not own a car, he had never purchased a No Fault PIP auto policy. This would normally make him eligible to receive his PIP benefits through the owner of the involved motor vehicle--the City. McKenzie initially informed the City that his home was with his sister, pointing to the use of her address as his legal mailing address. The City then denied PIP coverage, citing the No Fault priority statute making McKenzie eligible for PIP coverage through Progressive Insurance (his sister's carrier) as a resident of his sister's household.
By now, however, the one-year Notice and claim period had run for advising the sister's No Fault carrier, Progresssive, of the potential claim. Therefore, when McKenzie filed suit arguing that one or the other carrier should owe his medical, each carrier had a potential defense. The Trial Judge summarily dismissed both defendant insurers, holding that McKenzie had "admitted" his home was with his sister--and that it was too late to sue her insurer. McKenzie appealed.
The Court of Appeals upheld the decision with regard to the sister's coverage, Progressive, but reversed as to the City. The Court pointed out that the issue of "domicile" is more complicated than simply a mailing address, and that McKenzie's description of his sister's address as his home was an "evidentiary" admission--not a legal admission. Therefore, if the jurors hearing the evidence were to conclude that McKenzie was "domiciled" somewhere other than where he receives mail, the City could be responsible for PIP benefits.