August 20, 2015
In a recent published Court of Appeals opinion, Adam v. Bell, ___ Mich App ___; ___ NW2d ___ (8/11/15), a unanimous panel ruled that the doctrine of res judicata does not bar a plaintiff’s claim for uninsured motorist benefits when a prior PIP lawsuit involving the same parties and arising out of the same accident had been litigated, settled, and concluded on the merits.
In Adam, plaintiff sustained injuries in a motor vehicle accident and filed suit against her insurer, State Farm, for personal protection injury (PIP) benefits, pursuant to the No-Fault Act. Plaintiff’s PIP lawsuit settled, and plaintiff signed a release of all claims through the date of the release. In addition, the parties entered into a stipulated order for dismissal, with prejudice, as to plaintiff’s claims against State Farm. Following settlement of her PIP lawsuit, plaintiff filed a third-party lawsuit against the tortfeasor and owner of the vehicle. Plaintiff’s third-party complaint included a claim for uninsured motorist (“UM”) benefits against State Farm.
The trial court granted State Farm’s motion for summary disposition, ruling that the doctrine of res judicata barred plaintiff’s action for uninsured motorist benefits. Plaintiff then appealed.
The Court of Appeals noted that the doctrine of res judicata bars a subsequent action where “(1) the prior action was decided on the merits, (2) the prior action involved the same parties or their privies, and (3) the matter in the second case was, or could have been, resolved in the first.” Adair v State, 470 Mich. 105, 121 (2004). Yet, the fact that differing claims may require different evidence might be relevant to deciding if the claims arise from the same transaction, but it is not dispositive. Id at 124-125. The Adair Court further stated, “[w]hether a factual grouping constitutes a transaction for purposes of res judicata is to be determined pragmatically, by considering whether the facts are related in time, space, origin or motivation, [and] whether they form a convenient trial unit….” Id at 125.
Applying the Adair Court’s pragmatic approach, the Adam Court opined that a claim for PIP benefits differs fundamentally from a claim for uninsured motorist benefits – both in the nature of the proofs and the motivation for the claim. The Court reasoned that, although a plaintiff’s PIP claim and uninsured motorist claim arise from the same accident, involve the same injuries, and involve the same parties, the significant differences in the claims do not invoke res judicata.
Specifically, the Adam Court found that a PIP lawsuit may be filed without regard to fault. In addition, if a plaintiff does not timely file suit for PIP benefits, such benefits are barred by the one year back rule, MCL 500.3145(1). In contrast to a PIP claim, a plaintiff must establish fault to recover uninsured motorist benefits. Thus, while an injured person will likely have all the facts necessary to make a meaningful decision to pursue a PIP claim within a relatively short time after an accident, the same cannot be said for the injured person’s ability to pursue a claim for uninsured motorist benefits.
The Court’s opinion largely assesses the fundamental differences between a PIP claim and a claim for uninsured motorist benefits. This recent ruling, in practice, means that plaintiffs may pursue a claim for uninsured motorist benefits even after a final resolution of plaintiff’s PIP claim.
TROY BREAKFAST SEMINAR
The Troy Breakfast Seminar will take place on Thursday, September 3, 2015, at the Troy Marriott. Please note, this is a complimentary seminar for our clients. Contact Eileen Carty to register: email@example.com or (800) 875-7600.
Click here for the seminar agenda.
BASICS OF MICHIGAN AUTOMOBILE NO-FAULT INSURANCE LAW COURSE
Garan Lucow Miller, P.C. is pleased to once again offer this in-depth, educational course in the Fall of 2015. It will be taught each Tuesday evening, beginning September 29, 2015, and running through November 24, 2015, 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 Courtyard Marriott, located at 42700 W. 11 Mile Rd., 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.
Contact Eileen Carty to register: firstname.lastname@example.org or (800) 875-7600.
Click here for the course curriculum.
INDY CITY SEMINAR
The Indy City Seminar will take place on Thursday, September 24, 2015, at The Indianapolis Marriott Downtown. Please note, this is a complimentary seminar for our clients. Contact Eileen Carty to register: email@example.com or (800) 875-7600.
Click here for the seminar agenda.
Congratulations to Garan Lucow Miller’s lawyers, listed in The Best Lawyers in America 2016. Following are those that received this prestigious honor:
David N. Campos
Boyd E. Chapin, Jr.
L. Ladd Culbertson
John J. Gillooly
Thomas L. Misuraca
Dennis P. Partridge
Frederick B. Plumb
Daniel S. Saylor
Peter B. Worden, Jr.