Michigan Supreme Court Republicans dismiss two more cases on technical notice issues (Justice Markman hits 29-0, insurance companies against insureds?)
Yesterday, the Michigan Supreme Court's Republican Majority dismissed two more appeals from the Michigan Court of Appeals on two cases involving technical notice requirements. With 4-3 opinions, the Republicans dismissed the injured persons' lawsuits, holding that the governmental actors did not need to show any prejudice resulting from a technical flaw in the injured person's required notice of injury. The cases are Atkins v. SMART and McCahan v. Brennan and University of Michigan.
Vivian Atkins was injured in a bus collision involving a SMART bus. She collected PIP benefits from the Defendant's insurer (medical and limited wages) because she was an occupant who didn't have her own auto insurance, but she did not notify the bus company of her intent to file a personal injury lawsuit within 60 days of suffering the injury. The bus company did not claim that it was prejudiced by the notice failure: it couldn't argue prejudice, since it had complete information on Plaintiff's injuries by reason of her application for and receipt of complete medical records and payment of PIP benefits. The Defendant had even investigated causation of the claim, taking a statement from its driver. Nevertheless, the Republican majority held that because Atkins didn't follow the strict form of notice required by governmental immunity laws, her case must be dismissed permanently. As the dissenting Justices pointed out, this isn't even a case of "substantial compliance:" the Defendant literally had everything the law requires of a claimant, within the required time period, with the exception of a proper title on the initial document.
McCahan involved a similar injury claim brought by Christina McCahan, who unfortunately did not file a formal Notice of Intent to Sue in the proper office within the statutory six-month deadline. She did, however, provide actual notice within five months, including formal written notice to the University's Legal Office. Despite the fact that the University acknowledged receipt and responded indicating an intention to investigate, within the six-month limitiation; and despite its representation to her that it was willing to discuss resolution of the claim after completing its investigation; and despite the fact that it sought and conducted an interview and examination of Ms. McCahan, it ultimately denied the claim based on her failure to serve her notice on the proper office at the University.
With Republican domination of the Michigan Court system, this is what passes for "justice." For decades, Michigan recognized that notice requirements in governmental immunity statutes were enacted to prevent claims where the entity suffered prejudice by an inability to investigate the claim while it was "fresh." The Republican Justices reversed that decades-old philosophy and have enforced their procedural limitations with a vengeance. And by the way, since one of the decisions involved a PIP claim, Justice Markman's typical Republican vote count is now something like 29-0 in favor of insurers and against insureds with injury claims. HE HASN'T VOTED FOR ONE INSURED CLAIMANT OR AGAINST ONE INSURANCE COMPANY IN A CASE INVOLVING PIP BENEFITS. We haven't counted, but the same is probably true for the other Republican Justices, including Justice Young (former Chief Counsel of AAA, and Justice Mary Beth Kelly).