Appeals Court reverses trial judge; holds Michigan citizens cannot access records of Catastrophic Claims fund
This week a panel of the Court of Appeals overturned an Ingham County trial judge and dismissed a lawsuit filed by the Brain Injury Association and a coalition "to protect auto no fault." The trial judge had ruled that since the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association is a statutory creation that indirectly "taxes" motorists through mandatory no fault coverage, it was subject to the Freedom of Information Act with regard to files that do not contain personal information.
The higher court judges protected the insurer coalition from scrutiny, despite prior Supreme Court rulings and statutory language that appear to make the Claims fund subject to public scrutiny. The reversing judges rejected the statutory argument that only "a record of [MCCA] shall be exempted" if it contained confidential personal information and instead ruled that all records of the MCCA are exempted. They also refused to apply the Supreme Court's prior decision in Shavers v. Attorney General, which held that "the statutory scheme must ensure that insurance rates 'are not, in fact excessive'...and ensure that 'persons affected have notice as to how their rates are determined and an adequate remedy regarding that determination.' " The judges ever questioned whether MCCA fees are "passed through" to consumers. (Check your Dec Sheet; you'll find it.)
Michigan insurers have a cozy relationship with Republican governance. Voters must carry no fault insurance or they cannot drive on Michigan roads. If they do not comply, they face criminal penalties and sacrifice all sort of personal rights. In return, the insurers get to form a private "association" that is accountable to no one but themselves and which can thumb its nose to transparency in government.