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Volume XXVI, No. 11, April 11, 2014    

From the Law Offices of Garan Lucow Miller, P.C.

From the Editor: Sarah Nadeau 

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  Court of Appeals Rejects Plaintiff’s Claims of Estoppel, Mutual Mistake, and Impossibility to Avoid a Proper Policy Cancellation For Lack of Premium Payment

CONTRIBUTOR – CARYN FORD

In Micou v Progressive Michigan Ins Co, No 311937 (Mich App March 13, 2014), the Court of Appeals determined that Plaintiff could not rely on the common law doctrines of equitable estoppel, mutual mistake of fact, or impossibility to prevent enforcement of Defendant’s cancellation of Plaintiff’s insurance policy.

Plaintiff had maintained a policy of no-fault insurance with Defendant but failed to make his monthly premium payment in August 2010. On September 13, 2010, Defendant sent Plaintiff a cancellation notice which provided that the policy would be cancelled on September 26, 2010 if the $221.73 premium was not received. On September 23, 2010, during a telephone conversation, Plaintiff told Defendant’s employee that his church was willing to assist him with the payment but that he needed one more day, to September 27, 2010, to make the payment. Defendant told Plaintiff that she could not stop the cancellation, but represented that Defendant would provide continuous coverage if payment was received by September 27th. Defendant also stated to Plaintiff that if the premium was not paid on September 27th, the policy “would revert back to the original cancel . . . on the 26th.”

On September 27th, Plaintiff was unable to obtain the money from his church because it was closed and he did not pay the premium payment, yet he did not contact Defendant to advise that he would not be making the payment on September 27th. Plaintiff was then involved in a motor vehicle accident on the evening of September 27th.

After Defendant denied Plaintiff’s claim for first-party benefits as a result of the accident, Plaintiff initiated a lawsuit seeking a declaration that the policy was in effect and damages under the policy. The trial court granted Defendant’s summary disposition motion on the basis that the policy was cancelled on September 26th when Plaintiff failed to pay the premium on September 27th. In reaching this decision, the trial court rejected Plaintiff’s common-law defenses under the doctrine of impossibility, mutual mistake, and/or equitable estoppel.

On appeal, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s order granting summary disposition in favor of Defendant. The Court determined that no coverage existed on the day of the accident since the policy cancelled on September 26th because Plaintiff failed to make a premium payment on September 27th. The Court determined that equitable estoppel does not apply because there was no act, representation, admission or silence on the part of Defendant’s employee that arguably may have induced Plaintiff to believe that the policy would remain in effect past September 26th even if payment was not made on September 27th.

The Court also determined that Plaintiff’s mutual mistake/impossibility defenses were without merit. Plaintiff argued that the fact that the church was closed on Monday rendered his performance impossible or in the alternative that the agreement was marred by a mutual mistake of fact and should be reformed in favor of Plaintiff. Impossibility excuses a party to a contract from liability for a breach in the event his or her contractual promise becomes objectively impossible to perform. The Court determined that the mere lack of funds is not the sort of “impossibility” that warrants the application of this common-law doctrine. Moreover, while recognizing that a mutual mistake of fact occurs when the parties share an erroneous belief about a mistake of fact that affects the substance of the transaction, the Court concluded that the fact that the church was closed is not a material fact that affects the substance of the transaction nor was there evidence that the mistaken belief that the church was open was shared by both parties.

The Court of Appeals, therefore, held that Plaintiff could not escape the cancellation of the policy under theories of equitable estoppel, mutual mistake of the doctrine of impossibility.

 

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GARAN LUCOW MILLER  GRAND RAPIDS SPRING BREAKFAST SEMINAR

REGISTER NOW: lbeatty@garanlucow.com
April 23, 2014 at the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park

You and your co-workers are invited to attend our complimentary Annual Spring Breakfast Seminar at the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park on April 23, 2014. After the seminar, please enjoy all of the indoor and outdoor garden areas as our guests, including the always wonderful Butterflies Are Blooming exhibit.

If you are able to attend, please R.S.V.P., along with the full names and number of attendees, to Lynn Beatty at lbeatty@garanlucow.com  or call our office at 616-742-5500. We look forward to seeing you at the gardens.

 

AGENDA

8:00 – 8:20 a.m. Registration and Continental Breakfast

8:20 – 8:25 a.m. Welcome and Introduction
David N. Campos, Moderator

 

8:25- 8:50 a.m. A View From the Bench
Special Guest Speaker: Hon. James R. Redford, Kent County Circuit Court

 

8:50 – 9:50 a.m. Michigan First Party No-Fault (PIP) Updates
A comprehensive review of significant court decisions over the past year.
Speaker: David N. Campos

 

9:50 – 10:15 a.m. Property Protection Insurance (PPI) Updates
A presentation specifically focused on Property Protection Insurance claims and strategies for successful handling.
Speaker: Tara L. Velting

 

10:15 – 10:30 a.m. Break

 

10:30 – 10:50 a.m. Michigan Third-Party (Automobile Negligence) Updates
How courts are applying McCormick v Carrier, and the continued importance of using a wide variety of social networking sites for impeachment.
Speaker: David A. Couch

 

10:50 – 11:10 a.m. Updated Strategies for Handling Vehicle and Home Modifications Cases
A presentation specifically focused on Admire v Auto Owners, 494 Mich. 10 (2013) and its effect on modifications claims.
Speaker: Emily L. Partridge

 

11:10 – 11:50 a.m. Using Biomechanical Engineering to Strengthen Your Case
Guest Speaker: Brian T. Weaver, P.E., Weaver Engineering Co.

 

11:50 – 12:20 p.m. Michigan Premises Liability Updates
Speaker: Nathan A. Dodson

 

12:20 – 12:30 p.m. Question and Answer Session With the Panel Speakers

 

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INDY CITY SEMINAR

REGISTER NOW:  ecarty@garanlucow.com

GARAN LUCOW MILLER INDY CITY SEMINAR

Garan Lucow Miller, P.C. is pleased to present a half day seminar covering both Indiana and Michigan law on  May 21, 2014,  at the Indianapolis Marriott Downtown, located at 350 W. Maryland Street, Indianapolis, IN 46225 (317) 822-3500.  Comprehensive written materials will be distributed to all seminar attendees.

 

8:30 – 8:55 Continental Breakfast – Registration

8:55 – 9:00 Welcome and Introductions

David N. Campos

 

9:00 – 10:00 Michigan First-Party Automobile No-Fault (PIP) Update

Speaker: David N. Campos

 

10:00 – 10:30 Indiana First-Party Law Update

Speaker: Gregory M. Bokota

 

10:30 -10:45 Break

 

10:45 – 11:15 Tips on Handling Difficult Opposing Counsel

Speaker: John W. Whitman

 

11:15 – 11:45 Michigan Third-Party Automobile Negligence Update

Speaker: Adam K. Gordon

 

11:45 – 12:15 Indiana Third-Party Law Update

Speaker: Gregory M. Bokota

 

12:15 – 12:30 Question and Answer Session

 

If you are able to attend this complimentary event, please register via e-mail to Eileen Carty at:  ecarty@garanlucow.com

THERE WILL BE TWO DRAWINGS TO WIN FOUR TICKETS EACH TO THE 2014 INDY 500!!!!