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Volume XXVIII, No. 22, July 22, 2016 

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

From the Editor: Sarah Nadeau

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OLD–AGE SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFITS MAY BE CLAIMED AS SURVIVOR’S
LOSS BENEFIT UNDER MCL 500.3108

By Samantha J. Orvis

Under the No-Fault Act, surviving dependents of a fatally injured person are entitled to Survivor’s Loss Benefits. A portion of those benefits that may be claimed are economic benefits, which are based upon the dependent’s loss of economic contribution from the decedent. A dependent seeking these benefits must submit proof of a loss of support that would have been received but for the decedent’s death.

MCL 500.3108 governs a claim for Survivor’s Loss Benefits and states in pertinent part:

(1) Except as provided in subsection (2), personal protection insurance benefits are payable for a survivor’s loss which consists of a loss, after the date on which the deceased died, of contributions of tangible things of economic value, not including services, that dependents of the deceased at the time of the deceased’s death would have received for support during their dependency from the deceased if the deceased had not suffered the accidental bodily injury causing death and expenses, not exceeding $20.00 per day, reasonably incurred by these dependents during their dependency and after the date on which the deceased died in obtaining ordinary and necessary services in lieu of those that the deceased would have performed for their benefit if the deceased had not suffered the injury causing death…

Until just recently, Michigan case law was not clear on whether old-age social security benefits were “contributions of tangible things of economic value” and thus compensable as a survivor’s loss benefit. However, they were generally presumed to be included in any calculation of loss of economic contribution from the decedent. On July 5, 2016, in the published decision Scugoza v Metropolitan Direct Property and Casualty Insurance Company, the Michigan Court of Appeals held thatold-age social security benefits, payable pursuant to 42 USC 402, do qualify as “tangible things of economic value” for purposes of survivors loss benefits under MCL 500.3108(1).

In Scugoza, the decedent, Nicholas Scugoaz, was entitled to a monthly gross sum of $1,611.90 in old-age social security benefits. The plaintiff, decedent’s wife, applied to defendant for survivor’s loss benefits pursuant to the No-Fault Act, MCL 500.3101, and later sued decedent’s no-fault insurer Metropolitan alleging she was not paid the correct and full amount of survivor’s loss benefits she was entitled to receive. The Trial Court granted partial summary disposition to plaintiff pursuant to MCR 2.116(C)(10), and ruled that old-age social security benefits were “tangible things of economic value.”  The defendant, Metropolitan, appealed the ruling.

The Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed, concluding that the plain language of MCL 500.3108(1) encompassed old-age social security benefits and as a result, these benefits can be considered in a calculation of survivors’ loss benefits under the no-fault act.  The Court added old age social security benefits to a non-exhaustive list of other “tangible things of economic value” set forth in a different context by the Michigan Supreme Court in Miller v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 410 Mich. 538, 302 N.W.2d 537 (1981). That list also includes hospital and medical insurance benefits, disability coverage, pensions, investment income, annuity income and other benefits.

The Scugoaz Court’s holding lends to a very broad reading of the plain language of the statute. As practitioners, we can expect to see an increasing number of other sources claimed as “tangible items of economic value,” including a consideration of any and all benefits derived for family support from myriad sources.  Of note, the Scugoaz Court did not address whether old age social security benefits would be considered “set-offs” under MCL 500.3109 leaving that question open for further litigation.

 

SAVE THE DATE

Thursday, September 8, 2016,
at the Troy Marriott. Watch Law Fax for registration and further details.

This is a complimentary seminar for our clients.

  

SAVE THE DATE

BUCKEYE SEMINAR

The Buckeye Seminar will take place on Thursday, October 13, 2016, at
the Greater Columbus Convention Center.
Watch Law Fax for registration and further details.
This is a complimentary seminar for our clients.

  

BASICS OF MICHIGAN AUTOMOBILE
NO-FAULT INSURANCE LAW COURSE

 

Garan Lucow Miller, P.C. is pleased again to offer this in-depth,
educational course to our clients.  It will be taught each Tuesday evening,
from September 27, 2016 through November 22, 2016, from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

In an effort to facilitate our clients in the Detroit metro area,
the course will be held at the DoubleTree by Hilton,
located at 42100 Crescent Blvd. Novi, MI 48375.

The cost of the 9 week course is $350.00 per person,
with a discount of $50.00 per person
for more than 2 registrants from the same company.

Click  HERE  for an agenda.

Please contact Eileen Carty to register at ecarty@garanlucow.com or 248-641-7600.