Court enforces "exclusive remedy" provision of worker's comp, despite statutory language
A panel of the Michigan Court of Appeals asked the Michigan Supreme Court to address the inconsistency between the Court's focus on precise statutory language and its prior holdings involving exclusive remedy. A number of years ago, the Court held that an employer broker is protected by the exclusive remedy provision of the workers disability compensation act if the broker was involved with an insured employer. It relied on the rationale that both should be protected because the purpose of the act had been fulfilled. It came to this conclusion even though the statutory language is explicit that only "the" employer is protected.
The Court of Appeals noted that since these holdings, the Supreme Court has pronounced an emphasis on giving strict meaning to the actual words chosen by the Legislature and on that basis it has overturned several decisions that had softened or harmonized statutory language to achieve fair, consistent results. For example, the Supreme Court demanded that courts strictly enforce "notice of injury" limitations, where before the Court had examined whether a minor defect had resulted in prejudice. In another (of many) example(s), the Court held that a governmental entity would be financially responsible for its errors only if it was "the" sole cause of harm--not "a" cause acting together with the negligence of others.
The Court of Appeals noted that together these claims create an inconsistency: statutes are strictly construed when they limit an injury victim's rights, but broadly construed to meet public policy objectives, when they limit third-party responsibility for injuries.