Opinion Date: 02/14/2012
Issues: Whether an auto accident victim who had been living at an adult foster care facility was a "ward" of the facility for purposes of determining insurer priority for payment of Michigan No-Fault Personal Protection Insurance Benefits (PIP); MCL 500.3115; Hartman v. Insurance Co. of N. Am.; United States Fid. & Guar. Co. v. Citizens Ins. Co.; Skinner v. Square D Co.
Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (Unpublished)
Case Name: Michigan Ins. Co. v. National Liab. & Fire Ins.
e-Journal Number: 50896
Judge(s): Per Curiam – Servitto, Talbot, and K.F. Kelly
The court held that whether the victim (S) had the status of a ward with the adult foster care facility presented a genuine issue of material fact. Because a trial court is precluded from determining facts or assessing credibility on motions for summary disposition, there was a genuine issue of material fact making the grant of summary disposition improper. Thus, the court reversed the trial court's order granting the plaintiff partial summary disposition and remanded the case for further proceedings consistent with its opinion. The plaintiff sought declaratory relief that defendant was in higher priority to pay S's PIP benefits because S was a "ward" of the adult foster care facility and thus, a "family member" within the meaning of defendant's auto policy. Defendant argued that, as a corporation, the foster facility was incapable of having a ward or any type of family member. The trial court found defendant to be higher in priority and ordered it to reimburse plaintiff for S's PIP benefits. On appeal, the court focused only on whether partial summary disposition to plaintiff was proper based on its factual determination that S was a ward of the foster home for the purpose of determining the priority of insurer for payment of PIP benefits. It found that the common or accepted definition of the term "ward" is an individual "‘under the protection or tutelage of a person,'" and that, based on prior rulings, a corporation is capable of having a ward. The problem that arose, the court said, was the factual determination of whether, in the circumstances of this case, S as a resident of the group home had the status of a ward. To make this determination it was "necessary to examine the factual context of the case." Because the trial court was precluded from determining this genuine issue of material fact on a motion for summary disposition, the grant of partial summary disposition for plaintiff was improper.
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