June 24, 2019
MCL 500.3108(1) entitles the surviving dependents of persons killed in motor vehicle accidents to recovery of PIP benefits for “survivor’s loss,” which is defined as “a loss . . . of contributions of tangible things of economic value” that the surviving dependents would have received if the person had not died. In Miller v State Farm Mut Auto Ins Co, the Michigan Supreme Court held that this Legislative definition does not limit surviving dependents to recovery of the decedent’s wage or salary income. Rather, this definition of “survivor’s loss” encompasses “the value of tangible things other than, and in addition to, wages and salary,” including “[t]he dollar value of such items as employer-provided health insurance coverage, pensions, disability benefits, and other tangible things of economic value that are lost to the surviving dependents by reason of the insured’s death . . . .” But, Miller left open the question of how “the dollar value” of such items is to be calculated.
The Michigan Court of Appeals recently addressed that unanswered question in the published decision of Slocum v Farm Bureau Gen Ins Co. The decedent in Slocum had received health and dental insurance through his employer, which provided coverage for the decedent’s dependents. The equal-in-priority insurers acknowledged that the surviving dependents were entitled to survivor’s loss PIP benefits for “the dollar value” of such health and dental insurance. But, the insurers and the surviving dependents disagreed as to how to calculate such dollar value. The insurers asserted that the surviving dependents were only entitled to recover the amount that the decedent’s employer had been contributing toward the premiums for the medical and dental insurance policies. This amount, however, would not enable the surviving dependents to obtain health and dental policies providing the same level of coverage as they had been receiving before the decedent’s death. Thus, the surviving dependents asserted that MCL 500.3108(1) entitled them to recovery of the higher amount necessary for them to obtain new policies providing equivalent coverage.
The Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the surviving decedents, holding that the “tangible thing of economic value” that they had been receiving before the decedents’ death was the medical and dental insurance coverage and not the premiums that the decedent’s employer had been paying therefore. The Court stated that this comports with the “goal” of MCL 500.3108(1), which the Court perceives as being “to maintain the level of support the survivor[s] received from the deceased, not to maintain the finances sustaining that support.”
 410 Mich 538, 561 (1981).
 __ Mich App __ (2019), available at: http://publicdocs.courts.mi.gov/OPINIONS/FINAL/COA/20190618_C343333_68_343333.OPN.PDF
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