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Typical day for insurers in Michigan: three wins in four tries; although summary disposition reversed in a fourth case.

Today's electronic reporter gave an accurate gauge of Michigan's law as it relates to special interest insurance money:  there were four injury claimants and four judgments for the defense.  One summary disposition was reversed so that questions of fact could be resolved properly. 

One of the cases involved a malpractice verdict in favor of a doctor.  The Court ruled that even if the verdict was based on several evidentiary errors in favor of the doctor, the victim could not overturn the verdict because the prejudicial errors were not directly related to the defendant's negligence.  (Never mind the fact that all would have prejudiced the finder of fact in considering the weight and credibility of Plaintiff and his expert witnesses.)

Another case involved a fall on governmental property where a Housing Commission denied receiving the mandatory 120-day written notice of injury from the victim.  The Plaintiff and her daughter filed affidavits attesting to the fact that notice was timely given.  The trial judge denied summary disposition, but insurance stalwarts Christopher Murray, Henry Saad and Kirsten Kelly ruled that the affidavits were inadequate.  The lower court was over-ruled and summary disposition granted.

In a third case, the Court upheld summary disposition in favor of the semi owner and operator that rear-ended Matthew Lanter's car.  The Court held that since several days before Lanter's mother had turned the car over to Lanter, he was now an "owner" of the car, and since he had not purchased insurance, he could not pursue an injury claim.  This was true even though his name was not on the title or registration and even though he had not enjoyed the rights of ownership and possession for 30 days.

In the one partial victory for an insured, the Court of Appeals overturned a lower court judge who had granted summary disposition to two insurers who argued that Russell Reed and his wife were not entitled to PIP benefits after Reed suffered $400,000.00 in medical expenses in a car accident.  The court pointed out that a billing controversy developed between Reed's wife and Starr Indemnity after she temporarily added two vehicles to her policy and the insurer failed to timely remove them or adjust her payment.  Under the pertinent statute, if the insurer had been paid for coverage, it could not cancel the policy for non-payment.  The Court recognized that the record presented a genuine issue of material fact to be decided by a jury.  Still the Court upheld the summary disposition of Reed's temporary wage loss claim, despite a work history and his active pursuit of employment through MichiganWorks, because "he "did not show that [he] would have been successful in obtaining a job if he had not been injured."  Sadly, this is a completely incorrect application of the "temporarily unemployed" provision in the No Fault Act, which allows temporarily unemployed persons to collect wage loss DURING THE PERIOD OF UNEMPLOYMENT.

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
309 East Front Street
Traverse City, Michigan 49684
Toll Free: 1-800-678-1307
Fax: 231-929-7262