Justia Insurance Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Michigan Supreme Court
Dye v. Esurance Property & Casualty Ins. Co.
Matthew Dye brought an action against Esurance Property and Casualty Insurance Company and GEICO Indemnity Company, seeking personal protection insurance (PIP) benefits under the no-fault act, MCL 500.3101 et seq., for injuries he sustained in a motor vehicle accident while driving a vehicle he had recently purchased. At plaintiff’s request, plaintiff’s father had registered the vehicle in plaintiff’s name and obtained a no-fault insurance policy from Esurance. The declarations page of the policy identified only plaintiff’s father as the named insured. At the time of the accident, plaintiff was living with his wife, who owned a vehicle that was insured by GEICO. After Esurance and GEICO refused to cover plaintiff’s claim, plaintiff filed a breach-of-contract claim against both insurers along with a declaratory action, alleging that either Esurance or GEICO was obligated to pay his no-fault PIP benefits and requesting that the trial court determine the parties’ respective rights and duties. The issue this case presented for the Michigan Supreme Court’s review centered on whether an owner or registrant of a motor vehicle involved in an accident was excluded from receiving statutory no-fault insurance benefits under the no-fault act when someone other than an owner or registrant purchased no-fault insurance for that vehicle. The Court of Appeals concluded that “[a]t least one owner or registrant must have the insurance required by MCL 500.3101(1), and ‘when none of the owners maintains the requisite coverage, no owner may recover [personal injury protection (PIP)] benefits.’ ” The Supreme Court concluded an owner or registrant of a motor vehicle was not required to personally purchase no-fault insurance for his or her vehicle in order to avoid the statutory bar to PIP benefits. Rather, MCL 500.3101(1) only requires that the owner or registrant “maintain” no-fault insurance. The Court reversed in part the judgment of the Court of Appeals and remanded this case to the circuit court for further proceedings. View "Dye v. Esurance Property & Casualty Ins. Co." on Justia Law
Bazzi v. Sentinel Ins. Co.
Plaintiff Ali Bazzi, was injured while driving a vehicle owned by his mother, third-party defendant Hala Baydoun Bazzi, and insured by defendant Sentinel Insurance Company (Sentinel). Plaintiff sued Sentinel for mandatory personal protection insurance (PIP) benefits under Michigan’s no-fault act, and Sentinel sought and obtained a default judgment rescinding the insurance policy on the basis of fraud. The issue this case presented for the Michigan Supreme Court was whether the judicially created innocent-third-party rule, which precludes an insurer from rescinding an insurance policy procured through fraud when there is a claim involving an innocent third party, survived its decision in Titan Ins Co v. Hyten, 817 NW2d 562 (2012), which abrogated the judicially created easily-ascertainable-fraud rule. The Supreme Court held "Titan" abrogated the innocent-third-party rule but that the Court of Appeals erred when it concluded that Sentinel was automatically entitled to rescission in this instance. Accordingly, the Court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded to the trial court to consider whether, in its discretion, rescission was an available remedy. View "Bazzi v. Sentinel Ins. Co." on Justia Law
Kemp v. Farm Bureau Gen. Ins. Co. of Michigan
Daniel Kemp sued his no-fault insurer, Farm Bureau General Insurance Company of Michigan, seeking personal protection insurance (PIP) benefits under the parked motor vehicle exception in MCL 500.3106(1)(b) for an injury he sustained while unloading personal items from his parked motor vehicle. Farm Bureau moved for summary disposition under MCL 2.116(C)(10) on the basis that Kemp had not established any genuine issue of material fact regarding whether he satisfied MCL 500.3106. Kemp responded by asking the trial court to deny Farm Bureau’s motion and, instead, to grant judgment to Kemp under MCR 2.116(I)(2). The trial court granted Farm Bureau's motion for summary judgment. The Michigan Supreme Court reversed, finding that Kemp satisfied the transportational function required as a matter of law, and created a genuine issue of material fact concerning whether he satisfied the parked vehicle exception in MCL 500.3106(1)(b) and the corresponding causation requirement. Therefore, the trial court erred in granting summary judgment, and the Court of Appeals erred in affirming the trial court. The matter was remanded for further proceedings. View "Kemp v. Farm Bureau Gen. Ins. Co. of Michigan" on Justia Law
Covenant Medical Center, Inc. v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Ins. Co.
Only two sections of the Michigan no-fault act mention healthcare providers, MCL 500.3157 and MCL 500.3158, and neither of those sections confers on a healthcare provider a right to sue for reimbursement of the costs of providing medical care to an injured person. Although MCL 500.3112 allows no-fault insurers to directly pay PIP benefits to a healthcare provider for expenses incurred by an insured, MCL 500.3112 does not entitle a healthcare provider to bring a direct action against an insurer for payment of PIP benefits. Covenant Medical Center, Inc., brought suit against State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company to recover payment under the no-fault act for medical services provided to State Farm’s insured, Jack Stockford, following an automobile accident in which Stockford was injured. State Farm denied payment. In the meantime, Stockford had filed suit against State Farm for no-fault benefits, including personal protection insurance (PIP) benefits. Without Covenant’s knowledge, Stockford and State Farm settled Stockford’s claim for $59,000 shortly before Covenant initiated its action against State Farm. As part of the settlement, Stockford released State Farm from liability for all allowable no-fault expenses and any claims accrued through January 10, 2013. State Farm moved for summary judgment under MCR 2.116(C)(7) (dismissal due to release) and MCR 2.116(C)(8) (failure to state a claim). The trial court granted State Farm’s motion under MCR 2.116(C)(7), explaining that Covenant’s claim was dependent on State Farm’s obligation to pay no-fault benefits to Stockford, an obligation that was extinguished by the settlement between Stockford and State Farm. View "Covenant Medical Center, Inc. v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Ins. Co." on Justia Law
Estate of Nickola v MIC General Ins. Co.
In 2004, George and Thelma Nickola, were injured in a car accident. The driver of the other car was insured with a no-fault insurance policy provided the minimum liability coverage allowed by law: $20,000 per person, up to $40,000 per accident. The Nickolas’ (acting through their attorney) wrote to their insurer, defendant MIC General Insurance Company, explaining that the no-fault liability insurance policy was insufficient to cover the Nickolas' injuries. The letter also advised MIC that the Nickolas were claiming UIM benefits under their automobile policy. The Nickolas’ policy provided for UIM limits of $100,000 per person, up to $300,000 per accident, and they sought payment of UIM benefits in the amount of $160,000; $80,000 for each insured. An adjuster for defendant MIC denied the claim, asserting that the Nickolas could not establish a threshold injury for noneconomic tort recovery. The matter was ultimately ordered to arbitration, the outcome of which resulted in an award of $80,000 for George’s injuries and $33,000 for Thelma’s. The award specified that the amounts were “inclusive of interest, if any, as an element of damage from the date of injury to the date of suit, but not inclusive of other interest, fees or costs that may otherwise be allowable.” The trial court affirmed the arbitration awards but declined to award penalty interest under the UTPA, finding that penalty interest did not apply because the UIM claim was “reasonably in dispute” for purposes of MCL 500.2006(4). The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court, holding that the “reasonably in dispute” language applied to plaintiff’s UIM claim because a UIM claim “essentially” places the insured in the shoes of a third-party claimant. The Michigan Supreme Court held that an insured making a claim under his or her own insurance policy for UIM benefits cannot be considered a “third party tort claimant” under MCL 500.2006(4). The Court reversed the Court of Appeals denying plaintiff penalty interest under the UTPA, and remanded this case back to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Estate of Nickola v MIC General Ins. Co." on Justia Law
Perkovic v. Zurich American Ins. Co.
In 2009, plaintiff Dragen Perkovic was operating a semitruck in Nebraska when he swerved to avoid hitting a car that had spun out in front of him. Plaintiff’s truck then crashed into a wall. Plaintiff’s resulting injuries were treated at The Nebraska Medical Center. At the time of the accident, plaintiff maintained personal automobile insurance with Citizens Insurance Company of the Midwest (Citizens) and a bobtail insurance policy with Hudson Insurance Company (Hudson). Plaintiff’s employer was insured by defendant Zurich American Insurance Company. The issue this case presented for the Supreme Court's review centered on the notice requirements of the no-fault act, specifically those set forth in MCL 500.3145(1): whether a nonparty medical provider’s provision of medical records and associated bills to an injured person’s no-fault insurer within one year of the accident causing injury constitutes proper written notice under MCL 500.3145(1), so as to prevent the one-year statute of limitations in MCL 500.3145(1) from barring the injured person’s subsequent no-fault claim. The Michigan Supreme Court held that when, as in this case, the documentation provided by the medical provider contained all of the information required by MCL 500.3145(1) and was provided to the insurer within one year of the accident, the statutory notice requirement was satisfied and the injured person’s claim was not barred by the statute of limitations. Therefore, the Court reversed the judgment of the Court of Appeals, vacated the trial court’s order granting summary disposition in favor of defendant Zurich American Insurance Company, and remanded to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Perkovic v. Zurich American Ins. Co." on Justia Law
Barton-Spencer v. Farm Bureau Life Ins. Co. of Michigan
The issue presented in this case was whether, by signing a contract providing that plaintiff agreed “to reimburse [defendants’] attorney fees and costs as may be fixed by the court,” the parties agreed that the amount of reasonable attorney fees would be fixed by a court rather than a jury. After review, the Supreme Court held that the parties did so agree. Accordingly, the Court vacated part of the Court of Appeals’ opinion and reversed that portion of the judgment that reversed the award of contractual attorney fees and costs, as well as that portion of the judgment that reversed the award of case evaluation sanctions. The Court otherwise denied the application and cross-application for leave to appeal and left in place the remainder of the Court of Appeals’ opinion. View "Barton-Spencer v. Farm Bureau Life Ins. Co. of Michigan" on Justia Law
Hodge v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Ins. Co.
Linda Hodge filed suit against State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company for first-party no-fault benefits related to injuries she sustained when she was struck by a car insured by State Farm. Hodge’s complaint indicated that the amount in controversy was $25,000, which was within the district court’s jurisdiction. During discovery, State Farm came to believe that Hodge would present at trial proof of damages in excess of the district court’s $25,000 jurisdictional limit. The trial court denied State Farm’s motion in limine to prevent Hodge from presenting evidence of claims exceeding $25,000, and to prevent the jury from awarding damages in excess of $25,000. At trial, Hodge did present proof of injuries exceeding $25,000, and the jury returned a verdict of $85,957. The district court reduced the verdict to the jurisdictional limit of $25,000, and it awarded $1,769 in no-fault interest. State Farm appealed, claiming that the amount in controversy exceeded the district court’s jurisdictional limit and that capping Hodge’s damages at $25,000 could not cure the defect. The circuit court agreed and reversed the district court’s order of judgment. The Court of Appeals affirmed the circuit court’s decision that the district court was divested of jurisdiction when pretrial discovery, counsel’s arguments, and the evidence presented at trial pointed to damages in excess of $25,000. The Supreme Court held "what the jurisprudence of this state has long established:" in its subject-matter jurisdiction inquiry, a district court determines the amount in controversy using the prayer for relief set forth in the plaintiff’s pleadings, calculated exclusive of fees, costs, and interest. Hodge’s complaint prayed for money damages “not in excess of $25,000,” the jurisdictional limit of the district court. Even though her proofs exceeded that amount, the prayer for relief controlled when determining the amount in controversy, and the limit of awardable damages. Because there were no allegations, and therefore no findings, of bad faith in the pleadings, the district court had subject-matter jurisdiction over the plaintiff’s claim. View "Hodge v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Ins. Co." on Justia Law
Pirgu v. Unived Services Automobile Ass’n.
In 2008, Feridon Pirgu sustained closed head injuries after he was struck by a car driven by an insured of defendant, United Services Automobile Association. Plaintiff, Feridon’s wife Lindita, was appointed as his guardian and conservator. Shortly thereafter, plaintiff sought various personal protection insurance (PIP) benefits for Feridon. Because Feridon was uninsured, the claim was initially assigned to the Michigan Assigned Claims Facility, which then assigned the claim to Citizens Insurance Company. Following a priority dispute between Citizens and defendant, defendant was determined to have first priority for payment of PIP benefits. Defendant began adjusting the claim in 2010, and immediately discontinued payment of the benefits. The issue this case presented for the Michigan Supreme Court's was whether the framework for calculating a reasonable attorney fee set forth in "Smith v Khouri" applied to attorney fee determinations under MCL 500.3148(1) of the no-fault insurance act. The Court of Appeals’ majority affirmed the trial court’s calculation of the attorney fee award, concluding that the Smith framework did not apply to attorney fee determinations under section 3148(1). The Supreme Court disagreed with this conclusion and instead held that the Smith framework applied to attorney fee determinations under section 3148(1). Therefore, in lieu of granting leave to appeal, the Court reversed the judgment of the Court of Appeals, vacated the fee award, and remanded to the trial court for reconsideration of its attorney fee award. View "Pirgu v. Unived Services Automobile Ass'n." on Justia Law
Jesperson v. Auto Club Insurance Association
Alan Jesperson was injured in a motor vehicle accident when his motorcycle was struck from behind by a vehicle owned by Mary Basha and driven by Matthew Badelalla while Badelalla was making deliveries for Jet’s Pizza. Auto Club Insurance Association (ACIA) was notified of Jesperson’s injuries and that it was the highest-priority no-fault insurer. It began making payments to Jesperson shortly after it received that notice. Jesperson brought an action against Basha, Badelalla, and Jet’s seeking damages for the injuries he had sustained. He later moved to amend his complaint to add a claim against ACIA after it stopped paying him no-fault benefits. The trial court entered a default judgment against Badelalla and Basha, entered an order allowing Jesperson to amend the complaint, and entered an order severing Jesperson’s claims for trial. A jury returned a verdict of no cause of action with regard to Jesperson’s claims against Jet’s. Before trial on the remaining claim, ACIA moved for summary judgment, arguing that Jesperson’s claim against it was barred by the statute of limitations in MCL 500.3145(1). The court agreed that the statute of limitations barred Jesperson’s claim and granted ACIA’s motion for summary disposition. On appeal, the Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the exception in MCL 500.3145(1) to the one-year limitations period when the insurer has previously made a payment applied only if the insurer has made a payment within one year after the date of the accident. Jesperson appealed, and the Supreme Court reversed. The Supreme Court found that the insurer's payment of no-fault benefits more than a year after the date of the accident satisfied the second exception to the one-year statute of limitations in MCL 500.3145(1). The Court vacated the trial court's order granting summary judgment in favor of the insurer and the case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Jesperson v. Auto Club Insurance Association" on Justia Law