Typical day in Michigan's Courts: insurers win three; insureds, victims lose three
It was a typical day in Michigan's appellate court system on Friday. Among the various appellate decisions reported, the courts released results for three cases that related to personal injuries and insurance: all winners for the insurance companies.
In one case, the Court ruled that it was acceptable for State Farm to sell its insured/customer UIM (or underinsured motorist) coverage with limits of $20,000.00 per injury and uninsured motorist (UM) coverage with the same limits, even though Michigan's minimum insurance coverage limit is $20,000.00, making the UIM coverage a charge for an illusory benefit. The judges were inclined to believe that there might be some basis under which someone might some day collect liability coverage and UIM coverage equaling $20,000.00, in total. The foundation for this decision is questionable, given the insurance-friendly Supreme Court's previous decision that Auto Owners would receive credit against its UIM limits for the full amount of insurance coverage purchased by an at-fault motorist, regardless of the number of claimants or the actual dollar limits AVAILABLE to a victim who purchased UIM coverage. This case was titled Nickolas Edward Showman v. Albina Busser and State Farm Mutual.
In a second case, the Court held that an injured patient took too long to sue his doctor after a "failed" spinal surgery: since the man still had pain after the surgery, the judges ruled that the man should have sued within two years of the surgery. The patient argued that he only "reasonably discovered" the surgeon's negligence within six months of filing suit, after meeting with another surgeon who informed him of the nature of the prior failure. The Court essentially decided that no reasonable juror could believe the victim and that his statute of limitations ran when he had continued pain for two years after surgery, even though he registered some improvment in his pain and had no medical or scientific basis to argue that the surgeon was negligent. That case is titled John Albright v. Lucia Zamorano, M.D. and Harper-Hutzel Hospital.
Lastly, the Court of Appeals decided to review another medical malpractice case as an entirety rather than simply as a three-judge panel. Earlier this month the three-judge panel hearing the Furr v. McLeod, M.D., case, had decided that accidentally filing a malpractice case one day before the six-month waiting period expired should not be grounds for permanent dismissal of the claim. With this most recent decision, the case will be re-evaluated by the entire Court of Appeals and it is anticipated that the case will be dismissed, based on harsh rulings issued by the Republican, insurance-friendly majority of the Michigan Supreme Court.