Supreme Court reverses Court of Appeals; dismisses bicylclist's injury claim on technical notice issue
The bicyclist, Smith, was injured after he was allegedly run into a curb by a SMART bus. He reported the incident to defendant's call center the following day. A claims adjuster for SMART's insurer, ASU Group, conducted two interviews with the Smith within the week, including a an in-person recorded statement. Ultimately, the ASU adjuster wrote a memo to SMART documenting the above issues, however, Smith did not file any written document with SMART.
Since Smith did not own a car and did not have no fault insurance, under Michigan law, he would have been entitled to collect his medical expenses and immediate wage loss from the bus owner or its insurer. When he sought coverage for his modest medical treatment, however, SMART declined to pay, citing his failure to file a written notice of claim within the statutory time period.
The Court of Appeals held that the ASU adjuster's written confirmation of Smith's injuries constituted compliance with the the statutory notice requirement contained in the governmental immunity statute. It noted that under the strict language of the statute, Smith's notice could originate with an agent and need not come directly from him.
The Republican majority on Michigan's Supreme Court reversed and dismissed Smith's claim. It reaffirmed that under its relatively new interpretation of the immunity statute, "substantial compliance" with the notice requirement was not adequate: if there was any deficiency in the notice, Smith was ineligible to collect benefits and the governmental entity need not prove that it suffered any prejudice from the procedural error.