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Court reaffirms: no remedy for Michigan insureds when Farm Bureau acts in bad faith

Shirley Nixon sued Farm Bureau General after it refused to pay benefits under her homeowner's policy and accused her of intentionally setting fire to her home.  The trial court refused to dismiss her "bad faith" claim or her cause of action for "intentional infliction of emotional distress."  Farm Bureau appealed to the Court of Appeals, arguing that even if it acted in "bad faith" and wrongfully denied Nixon's purchased benefits, she had no claim for damages.

Citing an earlier case where Blue Cross wrongfully refused to pay for treatment of Stage IV metastatic breast cancer treatment, the Court of Appeals reversed the lower court ruling in Nixon's case and dismissed her claim for "bad faith."  The Court held that "the mere failure to pay insurance benefits" does not create a cause of action against the insurer in Michigan.  Unlike most states, Michigan does not recognize a cause of action for bad-faith refusal to pay an insurance claim, no matter how egregious the insurer's conduct, as "[f]ailure to pay a contractual obligation does not amount to outrageous conduct, even if it is willful or in bad faith."  

Do you still have doubt about the power of insurance companies to control the law in Michigan?

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