Insurer allowed to dispute causal relationship to injuries where Plaintiff fired 35 days after second surgery leave
Denis Ouelette was forced to sue the Auto Club after it terminated his no fault wage loss claim. Under Michigan's no fault law, an injured driver/owner must buy the first three years of wage loss from his or her own no fault insurer. Ouelette bought from Auto Club and it paid his initial lost wages when he missed work with a detached retina resulting from a car wreck.
Unfortunately, the eye required a second surgery two months later, and this time when he returned to work, his co-employers, DTE Energy and Custom Business Solutions, voided his contract and terminated his employment after 35 days. The employers wouldn't want to run afoul of obligations imposed by the Americans with Disabilities Act or Michigan's "Handicapper Civil Rights Act," however, so of course, they claimed that Ouelette was fired for "poor performance." Auto Club boot-strapped the employers' claim into a defense to paying no fault wage loss, arguing that Ouelette's lack of work was not injury-related.
The trial judge heard Ouelette's attorneys' motion for summary judgment and granted it. The insurer appealed. The Court of Appeals reversed and held that Ouelette would be required to prove his causation argument before a jury because the insurer had raised a genuine issue of fact. It reached this ruling despite the fact that the insurer had not listed Ouelette's supervisors as witnesses to be called at trial and the insurer's attorneys did not submit any documentary evidence of their "poor performance" evidence at the original summary disposition hearing.