Run of consecutive insurance company wins continues
Liberty Mutual won another case in March, this time arguing that Michelle Collier was not entitled to any further No Fault PIP benefits. Collier was a passenger in a car that was struck by another car in 2001. She eventually became paralyzed. She sued and obtained No Fault medical benefits on three prior occasions, but "the fourth time was the charm" for Liberty Mutual. In 2009, the insurer sent Collier for an IME, to a doctor it selected, and he concluded (surprise!) that the car accident was no longer a signficant contributing factor in Collier's medical condition .
Even though Collier's doctors disagreed with the IME doctor, and offered the opinion that her compromised immune system and transverse myelitis were caused in part by her injuries, which aggravated her Chiari malformation, the trial court eventually entered a jury verdict that her current problems were "unrelated." Coillier's attorneys argued that the outcome was caused, in part, by the Court's refusal to allow them to use medical journals to support their experts' testimony. They also argued that the Court errer by admitting reports authored by the doctors retained by Liberty Mutual, rather than limiting them to their trial testimony.
The higher court agreed that admitting the reports was error but upheld the lower court's action in failing to allow the Plaintiff to use the medical journals as exhibits supporting causation. Despite the "abuse of discretion" by the trial court in admitting the defense reports, the Court concluded that Collier was not entitled to a reversal of the trial outcome, because they were merely "cumulative." We believe this has become an all too common refrain in Michigan: insured and injury victims are held to the rules, but when an insurer violates them, it is not "reversible error."